Military Women Want To Be Heard

by Linda Franklin

Military Women Want To Be Heard by Linda Franklin Shining Service WorldwideYesterday was a day super-sized with emotion.  I travelled to Long Island with Trish, my right-hand gal and Shaun, our videographer, to visit with three female veterans.

We are producing a video so that that 99% of us who are civilians will gain an understanding of the challenges these women face,  And, to let our women know they have a voice and people are listening.

We talked with the women at an existing home in Bayshore that houses homeless women vets. That home is run by United Veterans Beacon House and is just one of 25 houses in their network.  This organization is run by Frank Amalfitano, a man with a heart bigger than the Grand Canyon.  He has helped thousands of vets.

UVBH is our partner and together we  planning to open The Shining Beacon House –  a home for veteran women and their children in New York City.  After hearing the stories yesterday, I know this long overdue. 

I wanted to know what a home like Shining Beacon would have meant to them as they tried to reintegrate back to civilian life.  The response I got was overwhelming.  As tears rolled down their faces they said it would have meant everything to them. To know they were safe, that the kids were safe and that they could rehabilitate without the anger of their families who just don’t understand.

Yesterday the emotion was raw and the issues they face are hard to hear.  What they experienced as women serving in an male-dominant military did not come as a big surprise to me, nevertheless you never get used to it.  I have talked to many women and the stories are consistent.  The women who left to serve are not the same women who return home. They are suffering and their children are suffering.  Nobody escaped.

When a mother has to leave her children the guilt she feels can’t be put into words. She is constantly second guessing her decision.  Sabrina had to leave her two young daughters with her 77 year old mother who wasn’t equipped to deal with them.  Of course there were consequences – there are always consequences.   

One thing was crystal clear from our conversations yesterday, our women want a voice. They know if they speak up about what they experienced while serving and the fallout when they returned home, it will help other women who will follow in their military footsteps.  They are very brave. 

We are working to provide housing while they get back on their feet.  Along along with that, we want to connect them with companies that will train them for new jobs.  We are also want professionals who can provide the proper treatment so they can heal physically, emotionally and spiritually,  And last. but by no means least, help them feel like they matter and that our country cares about them. 

Shining Service Worldwide is a charitable organization that supports all women who are part of the military family.  Our goal is successful re-integration to civilian life.

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Military May Be Gaslighting Sexual Assault Victims

by Linda Franklin

Military May Be Gaslighting Sexual Assault Victims Shining Service WorldwideI read an article this morning on the Jezebel.com website  written by Doug Berry.  I felt I had to share it with you. I have written about this problem before but Doug has gathered lots of facts we all need to know about. 

The raging problem of sexual assault in the military cannot be ignored, and on this website, it will not be.  Shining Service is dedicated to supporting women in the military community and feel it’s our duty to do what we can so our women can be heard without ridicule and punishment.

Leave it to the U.S. military to find a way to make sexual assault even more awful than it already is. CNN reports that, according to testimony from a number of women across all branches of the armed forces, that women who allege sexual assault are often given a psychiatric diagnosis and discharge in the military’s ceaseless effort to protect us regular American citizens from its most pernicious attitudes about gender.

A familiar pattern emerges from the stories that CNN has gathered — a woman is sexually assaulted in a barracks or on a ship by a serviceman and, on reporting the incident to a superior officer, is told something along the lines of, “It never happened.” At least that’s what happened to Anna Moore, who enlisted in the army after 9/11, planning to have a career in the military. After a non-commissioned officer raped her in the bathroom of her barracks in 2002, Moore’s first sergeant tore up the paperwork she had filled out in order to properly report the attack. Other women, such as the Navy’s Jenny McClendon, tell of being immediately “diagnosed” with a psychiatric disorder as part of a concerted effort to cover up their sexual assault at the hands of a peer or commanding officer.

In 2011, despite the military’s “zero tolerance” policy, 3,191 cases of military sexual assault were reported, a staggering figure that nonetheless is quite possibly, given the frequency of military cover-up, a low estimate. The Pentagon estimates that the actual number of sexual assault cases was closer to 19,000, and though Defense Secretary Leon Panetta deems such a number “unacceptable,” Anu Bhaghwati, a former company commander in the Marines and executive director of Service Women’s Action Network says that the military has been using psychiatric diagnoses to conveniently jettison women who raise complaints of sexual assault. Says Bhaghwati,

It’s convenient to sweep this under the rug. It’s also extremely convenient to slap a false diagnosis on a young woman … and then just get rid of them so you don’t have to deal with that problem in your unit. And, unfortunately, a lot of sexual assault survivors are considered problems.

From 2001 to 2011, the military discharged some 31,000 servicemen and women on the basis of personality disorders, though predictably the Defense Department insisted that it doesn’t keep records on how many of those discharges involved cases of sexual assault.

For women with no previous history of personal problems stemming from underlying psychiatric conditions to suddenly manifest personality disorders seems peculiar. None of the women profiled by CNN had a history of employment instability or unstable relationships (they’d made it into the military in the first place, after all), yet they were all diagnosed with a personality disorder, which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently defines as “a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood.” Neither Moore, McClendon, nor former Marine Stephanie Schroeder seem likely candidates for personality disorders, a fact that Bhaghwati hasn’t failed to notice.

These women have clearly been able to function. They’ve made it through basic training. They’ve made it through all the follow-on training. Many of them are deployed overseas in war, and they’ve done fine there. But, when they’re sexually assaulted, and then report it, it seems very suspicious that the military would suddenly stamp them with a pre-existing condition that bars them from serving anymore.

Moreover, according to Dr. Liza H. Gold of Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, psychiatrists generally try to avoid diagnosing someone with a personality disorder as they’re undergoing a traumatic experience, such as sexual assault. Only when symptoms persist after the initial trauma do psychiatrists normally venture into personality disorder territory. By definition, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is another condition that falls outside the realm of personality disorders.

Military women, according to CNN’s figures, seem to suffer personality disorders at disproportionate rate. For instance, though women account for only 16% of all soldiers in the regular army, they constitute nearly 24% of all personality disorders. The records that CNN examined do not contain any correlating data about how many women reported sexual assault, a fact that might be more significant because of its absence, since the general sentiment among critics of the military’s handling of sexual assault accusations seems to be that the military is using personality diagnoses to cloud the sexual assault data.

PTS – Who’s at Risk for PTS and What Can You Do?

By: Fuzzy Manning

PTS -  Who's at Risk & What Can You Do? Fuzzy Manning - Shining Service WorldwidePost Traumatic Stress PTS is a terrible trauma that overwhelms you, threatens your safety, makes you feel helpless, and numbs your feelings. You experience painful memories that don’t fade, and you live with a constant sense of fear. It seems like you’ll never get over what happened or feel normal again. 

What is the difference between PTS & normal trauma?

  • PTS – Anyone who experienced a terrible trauma whose body and mind are in emotional shock and your reality is altered in how you see and experience life, yourself, others, and the world. You need to seek professional mental health care. Family members can provide a great deal of support, but lack the ability to identify and treat the causes of the trauma.
  • Normal Trauma – You’re overwhelmed and frightened by a trauma. Your sense of safety and trust may be shattered. However most symptoms are short-lived and dissipate within a few weeks or months. Family support is crucial in your ability to recover and resume a normal life. 

Why Should I Seek Help for PTS?

  • Early detection and treatment is the best course of action. Until you have an experienced clinician, therapist, or practitioner to assess all of the changes within the body physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’re never actually sure of the extent of the damage to your entire body. If the causes go unchecked, they slowly progress into various Chronic Diseases such as: heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, obesity, cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, fibromyalgia, or diabetes.
  • Treatment plans and remedies vary due to family history, gender, age, lifestyle, and severity of the trauma or injury to the body. The majority of symptoms are invisible and may go undetected for years or decades. There are no generic treatment plans or remedies that work, period! 

How Does PTS Affect The Body?

PTS exists at a cellular level and affects every system and organ in the body. PTS either alters or changes your:

  • Blood Pressure & Heart Rate
  • Blood/Brain Chemistry
  • Cellular Division & Repair
  • Function of Bodily Organs
  • Immune System
  • Oxygen Intake 

PTS Symptoms

Symptoms of PTS develop over time, vary dramatically from person to person, and at anytime you can be transported right back in the middle of the trauma over and over again, e. g., due to a noise, a color, an image, or a smell. This is only a small list of PTS symptoms that may be exhibited internally and externally: 

  • Aggression & Irritability
  • Chronic Depression
  • Compulsive Addictions
  • Extreme Emotional Arousal
  • Flashbacks, Night Terrors & Nightmares
  • Increased Anxiety, Hysteria & Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Loneliness & Isolation
  • Numb Feelings
  • Panic Attack & Paranoia
  • Physical Aches & Pains
  • Suicidal Thoughts & Feelings
  • Uncontrollable Anger & Rage 

Who is at Risk?

  • PTS directly affects those experiencing the trauma, people witnessing the traumatic event, and those who serve and care for the victims, e.g., firemen, law enforcement officer, paramedic, medical personnel, emergency worker, aid/disaster relief, humanitarian worker, peace keepers, military personnel. 

What are PTS Traumas?

This is only small list of PTS traumas that can occur during your lifetime: 

  • Abuse & Physical Aggression
  • Assault & Robbery
  • Bullying & Harassment
  • Car, Train, Plane, or Boat Accident
  • Childhood Abuse
  • Death of a Loved One
  • Gang Violence
  • Genital mutilation
  • Genocide
  • Kidnapping
  • Natural Disaster
  • Sexual Assault, Harassment
  • Suicide
  • War 

Click here to find out finding an Alternative Specialist who can help. 

Shining Service Worldwide is a charitable organization that supports all women who are part of the military family.  Our goal is successful re-integration to civilian life.