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Military Sexual Assault Focus Of Sexual Assault Awareness Month


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Veterans Administration uses this month to raise awareness of veterans who are survival of military sexual trauma, defined as sexual assault or harrassment that occurred during military service.

Sarita Gruszynski is a Licensed Master Social Worker and Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

Gruszynski says the number of cases is surprising..

"...Military Sexual Trauma(MST) is much more common than people would think. The VA looks at military sexual trauma in a little bit different way than the civilian world. We include repeated sexual harassment as well as sexual assault in our defintion of sexual trauma. Of the veterans who use the VA, one in four women and one in 100 men report experiencing MST..."

She says the veterans often have mental health issues concerning MST...

"..They often feel a lot of shame, guilt, anger a lot of negative emotions. That can manifest itself in one's physical health. In addition they could turn to things to numb the pain such as any substances...."

The theme this year is "Pathway To Healing" and Gruszynski says the first step on the pathway is to come in to talk. She says the rules are changing...

"There's different legislation now and directive that allow more veterans to use the VA for MST-related care than we used to. That can include certain veterans with less than honorable discharges...."

More information is available at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain. There's also a clinic at Rhinelander.

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