In honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, Iraq Veterans Against the War honors those women who are organizing to end the wars, and all women who have paved the way before us.photo from San Antonio International Women's Day March, 2011 by editor
We also want to use this month as a platform to raise awareness about the particular ways war and militarism impacts women, and thereby, our larger community. As a start, today we launched an internal petition within IVAW condemning Military Sexual Trauma (MST). MST is defined by the military as "any lingering physical, emotional, or psychological symptoms resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, or battery of a sexual nature."1 This encompasses a range of experiences, from sexual harassment to unwanted sexual contact (including stalking and rape), and both women and men in the military can experience it.
See IVAW's Statement on Military Sexual Trauma and share it with your friends.
Military Sexual Trauma is widespread and under-reported
Studies indicate that 22% - 33% of all women in the military report experiencing Military Sexual Trauma.2 There is also some evidence that women experiencing MST are at higher risk for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their MST.3 The Pentagon reported that 2,923 cases of sexual assault occurred in the U.S. military during 2008, about 63% of which were cases of rape or aggravated sexual assault. But with the Pentagon's estimate that 80% of military sexual assault goes unreported, real numbers are likely much higher.4
It's About Human Rights
MST affects the entire military and veteran community and is not just a women's issue. It's about the rights we all have as human beings to live and work in an environment free from harassment, abuse, or violence. But often times, within the military, sexual harassment and assault is treated as a joke, perhaps because it is perceived as only affecting women. Claims against perpetrators of sexual violence often are ignored, and these same sex offenders are even promoted! Victims often are expected to continue working with their assailants.
IVAW's Operation Recovery campaign aims to stop the deployment of troops who are dealing with un-treated trauma, including Military Sexual Trauma. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury are forms of trauma that are gaining wider recognition, MST remains in the shadows. But Operation Recovery hopes to help change that, by removing the stigma associated with all of these forms of trauma and by organizing for our right to heal.
We are also pleased to report that our sisters in the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) have filed Freedom of Information Act Requests from the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense to obtain information on the prevalence of MST and how the military treats MST claims. SWAN has also initiated a lawsuit against the military on behalf of 17 MST survivors. Their efforts will go a long way in our own campaign to stop the deployment of those suffering from MST.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is mobilizing to take on Military Sexual Trauma within our community and in our grassroots organizing efforts. This is a commitment we take seriously. We hope you share our statement on Military Sexual Trauma with your friends and colleagues.
Iraq Veterans Against the War Staff
Aaron, Amadee, Bryan, Chantelle, Jason, Joe, Jose, and Sarah