The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Posts Tagged ‘Veterans

Washington Seeks to Fight Military Sexual Trauma…But What’s the Best Way?

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“What I had to deal with in the Air Force just about destroyed me,” [Vietnam Vet JoAnn] White told The Arizona Republic. “I hope telling what happened to me will help other women. I am fed up and tired. I want the word out there.”

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has unfortunately forced many around this country to wage a different war, one not fought with guns or missiles, one fought with lawsuits and legislation.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is an issue our military has been dealing with for a long, long time. Take JoAnn’s case, she’s still unable to work because of the abuse she sustained from her peers while serving in Vietnam.

And obviously, the problem of MST persists to this day:

Last year, 3,158 sexual assaults were reported by men and women serving in all branches of the Armed Forces, according to the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. But the department estimates that last year’s number reflects only about 13.5 percent of the total number of assaults on men and women in active duty last year.

Another estimate from the VA says a mere 10 percent of the total abuse cases which occur are actually reported.

Many are trying to change that, including our lawmakers who introduced the “Defense Sexual Trauma Response, Oversight and Good Governance” — or Defense STRONG — Act last month:

If passed, it would give military sexual assault victims the right to legal counsel and to transfer to another base after making a complaint. The bill also would mandate increased training on bases to prevent sex assaults.

But is the real problem for MST victims the lack of resources or the “culture” of the military itself?

Many believe that the best way to get at the root problem of sexual violence is through training early in a military career.

“Correcting the culture within the military is being done in a very pointed way,” said Joice Jones, a civilian social worker who coordinates Luke Air Force Base’s sexual assault prevention and response program and helps run prevention workshops.

Jones compares many of the airmen and airwomen stationed at Luke to first-year college students: They are away from home for the first time and need information about date rape prevention as well as how to intervene if they see someone on base being sexually harassed or assaulted.

READERS: How can our government best address this epidemic? Does it come down to funding, is it merely the actions of a few bad seeds, or should our military look into overhauling its entire “culture”?

Written by traumalines

May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Lending a Helping Paw to Our Wounded Vets

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Leaving your house, sleeping through the night, finding and/or holding down a job…for most of us, that’s part of everyday life, the nuts and bolts of a healthy existence. But what about those who struggle with these simplest of tasks?

Many of “those” are our veterans who are returning home from war. “We return from war but our minds do not,” explained Marine Veteran Evan John.

Mr. John wrote those exact words when he was asked why a dog may be able to help him. But it wasn’t just any canine, it was a specially-trained service dog.

Late last year, Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs added a service dog initiative, called “Canines and Heroes for Independance” (CHI), to help veterans who suffer from the wounds of war, both visible and invisible. So many of our returning vets are dealing with PTSD and TBIs that cause them high levels of anxiety, nightmares, stress and pain. According to Brigadoon, 86 percent of veterans with service dogs found that the animals helped to reduce their symptoms:

Dogs trained to deal with PTS and TBI are taught to prevent strangers from coming too close. By positioning themselves in front of their partners, they prevent people from getting into their personal space. Dogs are often trained to “watch”; this takes the place of the soldier having to watch his back; a common urge that many combat veterans share.

These dogs also provide reality checks for visual and auditory hallucinations. A veteran recently reported that while spending a quiet evening at home, he suddenly felt a strange person standing close to him. He looked down at his Service Dog who was asleep at his feet and realized that no one could possibly be there without the dog reacting.

Brigadoon’s goal in this first year of their program is to raise enough money to match 10 veterans/service members with a highly-trained service dog of their own at no cost to them. To do so, they need your financial help.

Be sure to visit to find out more about their programs as well as how you can help.

Written by traumalines

February 23, 2011 at 9:19 pm

National Survey of College and University Student Veterans

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There’s a new survey being conducted by the University of Utah that we want to tell you about: Researchers are looking to hear from veterans to learn more about their experiences on college and university campuses. They’re seeking greater insight on how veterans transition back to student life, and what “common barriers and issues that veterans encounter in returning to or starting school after serving in the military.”

Click here to take the survey-

Here are some more details:

We would like to ask you to follow the internet link below to a web-based survey. Read the consent information and complete the survey. It is anticipated that your participation in this survey will provide college and university campuses with vital information in helping and serving student veterans, as well as ease their transition into college life and alleviate stress and other issues they may be experiencing. Also, the results will provide important information on how to help those student veterans that may be struggling with the transition. There are no foreseeable risks associated with this study.

The information you provide will be saved in an online database to be analyzed by the Principal and Co-investigators. Demographic information will be asked, (i.e. age, sex, ethnicity, etc.) However, no identifying information will be required therefore; no issues with loss of confidentiality are anticipated.

Questions? Concerns? Complaints?

If you have any questions, concerns, or complaints or if you feel you have been harmed by this research please contact M. David Rudd or Jeff Goulding College of Social and Behavioral Science Dean’s Office University of Utah (801) 581-8620.

Contact the Institutional Review Board (IRB) if you have questions regarding your rights as a research participant. Also, contact the IRB if you have questions, complaints or concerns which you do not feel you can discuss with the investigator. The University of Utah IRB may be reached by phone at (801) 581-3655 or by e-mail at

How long will this survey take?

It should take APPROXIMATELY 15 minutes to complete the web-based survey. Participation in this study is voluntary. You can choose not to take part and you can also choose not to finish survey or omit any question you prefer not to answer without penalty or loss of benefits.

By following the internet link, reading the consent information and answering in the affirmative that you understand it, you are giving your consent to participate in this study.

Your participation in this study is greatly appreciated and the results will go toward helping student veterans like yourself improve their college experience and enhance opportunities and services for them.

Click here to take the survey-

Written by traumalines

January 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm

One Veteran’s Controversial College Essay

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Sitting in his jail cell, serving a three-month sentence for drunk driving, veteran Charles Whittington found refuge in writing. It was perhaps the only safe and healthy outlet that helped him deal with his severe anxiety, stress and PTSD which resulted from his three tours in the Middle East.

When Whittington returned to his home in Southwest Baltimore, he attended college and found his classes to be a challenge that he met head on, earning himself a 4.0 GPA. Yet when Whittington finally found it in himself to let his guard down and reveal his trauma in an essay, it got him kicked out of college.

Whittington writes:

War is a drug. When soldiers enter the military from day one, they begin to train and are brain washed to fight and to handle situations in battle. We train and train for combat, and then when we actually go to war, it is reality and worse than what we have trained for. We suffer through different kinds of situations. The Army never taught how to deal with our stress and addictions.

Whittington continues writing:

War is a drug because when soldiers are in the Infantry, like me, they get used to everything, and fast. I got used to killing and after a while it became something I really had to do. Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible. It is not like I have a switch I can just turn off. To this day, I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind. War does things to me that are so hard to explain to someone that does not go through everything that I went through. That’s part of the reason why I want to go back to war so badly, because of this addiction.

Over in Iraq and Afghanistan killing becomes a habit, a way of life, a drug to me and to other soldiers like me who need to feel like we can survive off of it. It is something that I do not just want, but something I really need so I can feel like myself. Killing a man and looking into his eyes, I see his soul draining from his body; I am taking away his life for the harm he has caused me, my family, my country.

On one hand, wow, you can easily understand the fear that led to the college administrators’ decision to kick Whittington out of school for fear that he could possibly inflict harm on the teachers and/or students. Whittington’s words, after all, were of a extremely violent nature. The history of school violence in this country has created a culture of nearly zero tolerance when it comes to violence or even the threat of violence (Whittington’s essay did not threaten violence, it spoke of feelings of violence).

Yet on the other hand, civilians have no idea what soldiers go through day in and day out when in combat. As Whittington himself explains, “If you didn’t go through it, you don’t understand.” Taking another person’s life is a brutal reality that all soldiers have to come to grips with. During times of war, that harsh reality essentially preserves their own life (kill or be killed). Also, as Whittington explained, it’s not only about survival, it’s about killing to protect your country and all your loved ones that live in it. If killing is a part of survival, and if killing is part of a soldier’s job description (so that they may preserve the freedoms of their country and the people that they love), it’s easy to understand Whittington’s words and even sympathize with them.

I encourage everyone to read this Baltimore Sun article and Whittington’s essay so that we can continue this discussion. Was the school right or wrong for kicking Whittington out? Should Whittington have shown more restraint? Is this just another example of how civilians can never truly understand the trauma that our soldiers endure?

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you feel!

Written by traumalines

January 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm

A Review of our Most-Recent Posts

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Every once in a while we like to give readers a chance to get caught up in case anyone has missed any of our most-recent posts:

HBO’s ‘Wartorn’: The invisible wounds of war“:

If you haven’t already, I have to recommend that you watch HBO’s documentary, “Wartorn.” This unprecedented view into the world of PTSD is both riveting and incredibly emotional.

In a sense, our soldiers today are lucky. I bet you may never have heard anyone say that before. But if you think about it, while the gruesome realities our soldiers have been exposed to essentially haven’t changed with each new war or conflict they have faced over the years, the recognition and treatment of PTSD — although still not perfect — has evolved tremendously throughout the decades:

Doctors in the Civil War called it “hysteria.”

Medics in WWI referred to it as “shell shock.”

During WWII it was known as “combat fatigue”…

Exploring the Masks We Wear“:

I want to invite anyone who presented at ATSS’ 2010 conference to share the nature of your presentation with our readers. I know from talking with several of this year’s attendees, that because there were so many presentations to choose from, there were several other presentations they wish they could have attended if schedules permitted.

Jennifer Wortham has agreed to be the first presenter to share. Jennifer’s presentation was titled “Exploring the Masks We Wear: Paths to Joy and Self-Empowerment.”

In her own words, Jennifer explains exactly what her presentation was about:

I was delighted to facilitate an interactive process-oriented mask workshop at the 2010 ATSS conference Safely in Our Hands: Helping Our Helpers Stay Healthy. The workshop’s theme echoed the theme of the conference by exploring creative expression as a method of self-care. A slide show of masks from different cultures and the purposes they served was shown to stimulate participants’ interest and imagination. A Burkina Faso initiation mask, a Seneca corn husk mask and a Beijing opera mask were among the 21 we reviewed…

Male Abuse Awareness Week 2010:

One of the first questions you might be asking is “Why hold an abuse awareness week, let alone a male abuse awareness week, so close to the holidays?” The unfortunate truth is, a lot of abuse occurs around the holidays, so the timing is rather perfect.

Both men and boys suffer from abuse, whether it is sexual, physical, emotional or mental, and their abuse is real and far too commonplace. is a website that’s dedicated to educating visitors on male abuse and also serves to promote Male Abuse Awareness Week 2010…

As you can see, our blog posts are quite diverse, but they all maintain a focus on trauma responders and survivors. Please feel free to suggest your own topics and ideas for blog posts, or even write your own!

Written by traumalines

December 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Holiday Gift Giving

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As the holidays grow closer, our days seem to get busier and busier. Balancing work with family gatherings and gift shopping, it’s easy to get bogged down and forget about the soldiers who are overseas during this 2010 holiday season.

Yet, you can take just a few minutes and provide a gift to our soldiers who are away from home this year. While I’m sure there are more organizations doing so, the USO and the Red Cross are currently accepting donations that will help deliver some holiday cheer to our servicemen and servicewoman.

Click here to check out the Red Cross’ 2010 Holiday Giving Catalog.

This post is just a short reminder not to forget about our troops during the upcoming holiday season.

Written by traumalines

November 4, 2010 at 8:22 pm

How Is the U.S. Really Treating Their Troops?

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Recently, Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote a provocative op-ed piece that calls the United States’ commitment and support of their troops into serious question:

The idea that the United States is at war and hardly any of its citizens are paying attention to the terrible burden being shouldered by its men and women in uniform is beyond appalling.

We can get fired up about Lady Gaga and the Tea Party crackpots. We’re into fantasy football, the baseball playoffs and our obsessively narcissistic tweets. But American soldiers fighting and dying in a foreign land? That is such a yawn.

For those of us who attended this year’s conference, we haven’t soon forgotten the emotional video of Canadian citizens welcoming home their fallen soldiers. Canadians lined the roads that led into the Air Force Base and they lined the roads which led away from the base. In America, fallen soldiers are returned under the cover of darkness, citizens and the media are prevented from photographing the caskets. Herbert contests that this is just another example that the U.S. isn’t owning up to their responsibility:

The meat grinder of war takes its toll in so many ways, and we should be paying close attention to all aspects of it. Instead, we send our service members off to war, and once they’re gone, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

In Herbert’s view, it doesn’t get any better for the soldiers who survived battle but now face a new war at home:

One of the things we have long known about warfare is that the trouble follows the troops home. The Times published an article this week by Aaron Glantz, a reporter with The Bay Citizen news organization in San Francisco, that focused on the extraordinary surge of fatalities among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. These young people died, wrote Mr. Glantz, “not just as a result of suicide, but also of vehicle accidents, motorcycle crashes, drug overdoses or other causes after being discharged from the military.”

READERS: Do you agree with Herbert’s sharp assessment of how the U.S. is treating their military?

Written by traumalines

November 2, 2010 at 9:30 pm