American Chronicle - Beverly Hills,CA,USA … full of stories from sexual assault victims suffering not only from residual effects of their physical injuries but from MST, Military Sexual Trauma. …
PTSD Among Military Personnel: A Review
By wpman Military service at a younger age, less military and professional experience, occupational trauma involving extensive exposure to death and dying were associated with poor post war adjustment (Paul, 1985). Army nurses with less than two …Â Across the area
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Understanding Warning Signs and Effective Treatment - Oct. 26: Lorraine Braswell, staff psychologist and military sexual trauma coordinator at the … See all stories on this topic
Why did it take a near-tragedy for the Army to do the right thing in the Whiteside case?
Sunday, February 3, 2008; B06
“ONE OF THE Army values is integrity, which is defined as doing what is right, legally and morally. The moral thing to do is dismiss these charges . . . . ” That recommendation of an Army investigator more than a month ago in the case of 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside was not acted on until after this vulnerable young woman attempted suicide a second time. The delayed reaction offers another troubling glimpse into the military’s attitude about mental health issues.
Lt. Whiteside is the 25-year-old Army reservist who faced a court-martial after she suffered a breakdown and tried to commit suicide in Iraq. Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull chronicled her story: how she had a spotless record; how she had been harassed by a superior and how she snapped one night in war-torn Baghdad, pulling a gun on a superior before shooting herself in the stomach. The diagnosis of her psychiatrists that she suffered significant mental illness was brushed aside by her commanders, who saw it as an excuse and pressed ahead with charges. In December a hearing officer sided with the doctors and recommended against a court-martial. To do so, he said, would be “inhumane,” but no action was taken. Nor could Lt. Whiteside and her attorneys get any answers. Distraught about her legal limbo, she attempted suicide last Monday, and, with The Post again looking into the circumstances, the charges were finally dropped.
The mishandling of this case is indicative of a military culture dismissive of psychiatric ills as real sickness. Those who seek treatment are too often stigmatized and punished. How else to explain the worry of service members who say they fear being labeled as weak? Think of the message that was sent by the Army’s pursuit of Lt. Whiteside and its apparent reluctance to do the right thing.
The case is also a poignant illustration of the dramatic rise of suicides and attempted suicides in the Army. A draft internal study obtained by The Post showed suicides among active-duty soldiers increased nearly 20 percent in 2007, to the highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980. The numbers of attempted suicides and self-inflicted injuries also are increasing.
The Army, to its credit, is paying new attention to mental health issues, including hiring more service providers and putting in place new assessments. The Wounded Warrior legislation increases the coordination between the military and the Veterans Affairs Department for treating troops and veterans with mental health issues. The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill, which improves the VA’s suicide prevention procedures, was signed by President Bush in the fall. None of those efforts will succeed, though, if not accompanied by a change in culture and leadership in the Defense Department. Lt. Whiteside, in a desperate note, put it this way: “I’m very disappointed with the Army.”
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Thursday, July 13th, 2006
‘Meet Me in Fort Lewis’ - Protests Planned for Army Specialist Who Went AWOL After Charging Sexual Harassment
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Army Specialist Suzanne Swift remains confined to base. She went AWOL when the military did not address her charges of sexual harassment and abuse. We take a look at sexual harassment in the military. [includes rush transcript]
We take a look at the case of Suzanne Swift. She is the Army Specialist who has been arrested and confined to base for going AWOL after her charges of sexual harassment and assault went un-addressed by the military.
Swift served in Iraq for a year but decided she could not return and went AWOL. She said her superiors repeatedly sexually harassed her while serving in Iraq. On June 11th, the Eugene police knocked on her mother’s front door and Suzanne was arrested and taken to the county jail. She has since been transferred to Fort Lewis Washington where she is confined to her base. So far, no charges have been filed against her and Fort Lewis officials have said they will assign an independent investigator to look into her charges of sexual harassment.
Suzanne Swift turns twenty-two on Saturday. Her family and supporters are urging a national day of action on her behalf. A “Meet Me in Fort Lewis” rally and vigil are planned for noon outside Fort Lewis. Another in her hometown of Eugene, is planned for noon at the Federal Building.
A few days ago, we brought you Suzanne Swift’s mother, Sara Rich. Today we bring you Suzanne Swift’s grandfather, Jim Rich. I spoke with him at the Oregon Country Fair near Eugene.
Jim Rich, Suzanne Swift’s grandfather.
For more on the issue of sexual harassment in the military we are joined by:
Susan Avila-Smith, a Military Sexual Trauma Specialist and founder and director of Women Organizing Women, an advocacy group for survivors of rape in the military.
More information at SuzanneSwift.org. Email Suzanne Swift’s mother, Sara Rich, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We invited a representative from Fort Lewis military base to be on our program but they declined our request.
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: Today, we bring you Suzanne Swift’s grandfather, Jim Rich. I spoke with him at the Country Fair. I asked him how he felt when Suzanne first joined the Army.
JIM RICH: I was very sorry when she succumbed to the blandishments of a very smooth-tongued recruiter. And I thought when she decided not go back, she had made the best possible decision, considering the things that she had gone through, things that no male soldier would ever, ever, ever in his wildest dreams have to endure.
I hope that justice is served. I hope that light is shown on this aspect of the Army that makes women recruits the prey of sexual predators, and that Suzanne is honorably discharged. I also hope that the rest of our soldiers get to come home soon, and no more sent.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jim Rich, Suzanne Swift’s grandfather. He’s also a blacksmith, and he was at the Oregon Country Fair, made the iron tools for the new film Pirates of the Caribbean.
Well, we’re joined on the phone right now by Susan Avila-Smith. She’s a Military Sexual Trauma Specialist, founder and director of Women Organizing Women, an advocacy group for survivors of rape in the military. We invited a representative from Fort Lewis military base, where Suzanne is confined, to be on our program, but they declined our request.
Susan Avila-Smith, thanks so much for being with us. I realize it’s tough for you to come out of your recovering from cancer, and yet you have chosen to take the time to stand up for Suzanne. Why?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: Good morning. Well, I think it’s an extremely important problem going on in the military right now, and they continue to keep sweeping this under the rug. Congress has done multiple investigations, but they have made no changes to any of the accountability within the military. And it’s really time that somebody stands up, and the fact that Suzanne stood up and went AWOL is showing how bad the problem is.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you had an opportunity to meet with her. In terms of her experiences, how they compare to others that your organization has dealt with in recent years?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: The experience that she’s had has been similar to the 600 other cases that Iâ€™ve had. It’s usually a command rape. It’s usually covered up. It’s usually that they try to persecute the victim, rather than persecute the perpetrators.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And have there been any instances where actual rapes or assaults have been prosecuted by the military?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: Yeah, there’s been a few, usually the high-profile cases, and sometimes, you know, justice is done. There’s been a 30-year sentence. But generally speaking, of the hundreds and thousands — there’s probably a hundred thousand women who have been raped over the lifetime of women in the service — generally speaking, no, the perpetrator usually is running free, and the victim is usually kicked out of the military.
AMY GOODMAN: Susan, can you tell us your own story, how you got involved with helping women in the military?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: When I was in, I experienced some domestic violence and sexual assault, and both times it was dismissed by the military. When I finally got out, I was in a women’s support group at the Seattle V.A. and found out that so many women had been raped in the military, and nobody really knew what to do. And the paperwork to file claims with the V.A. was impossible for anybody with post-traumatic stress disorder. And so we got together and started helping other women with the paperwork, and it evolved into helping other women nationwide with claims as old as from World War II. And now Iâ€™m doing a lot of active duty cases.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Suzanne Swift’s case, apparently she was asked to fill out a 700-question psychological questionnaire. It seems to me quite extreme in the situation that she was under. Do you have similar instances where those who have come forth, the target then has been on them and on their psychological situation?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: Yeah. That was also the same with the Sergeant Audra Wood. I think it’s very typical of the military to do an MMPI on the soldiers. Unfortunately, they’re doing it on the victims, rather than the perpetrators. But it also — it does help to find a baseline to see if there is damage to the victim and to see if there’s mental health counseling that needs to be taken care of and addressed.
AMY GOODMAN: In the case of Suzanne Swift, and we’ve talked to her mother several times, she says that when she was in Iraq and she got into a vehicle with a sergeant, he immediately talked about having sex with her. Even back at Fort Lewis at the base, when she showed up and asked where she should report for duty, she said another sergeant said, â€œIn my bed, naked.â€ Right before July 4th weekend, at the big formation where hundreds of soldiers are there, the person in charge said he wanted 21-year-olds to step forward to tell them, you know, they shouldn’t be drinking on July 4th weekend. And then he said, â€œAnyone who has gone AWOL in the last six months I want to step forward.â€ And, of course, Suzanne was the only one to step forward. Then, she was also that week earlier taken for this psych evaluation without telling her mother, without telling her attorney, taken alone until her mother raised such a fuss she was taken back from the psych testing area, though she had to take it the next week.
What about the response of the military in all of these cases, and her saying she even went to her E.O. officer in Iraq, equal opportunity, to complain about harassment, and the message that was sent when he did nothing about it?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: Well, she has followed the chain of command or attempted to follow the chain of command, which has failed her. And they have reprimanded the first sergeant who singled her out at formation. And I don’t believe that that’s going to be happening again. She’s currently with a new command, who has been sensitive to her needs and is acting, what I believe, above and beyond what a normal military command would do. They recognize that this is a high-profile case, and they seem to be now doing the right things for her.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And also, the issue of the impact of war itself on these situations, are you finding that the number of victims is greater in war situations, like in Iraq or Afghanistan, than it is in peacetime efforts of the military?
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: It’s a little bit more during the war, but I think maybe perhaps people are reporting a little bit more. It continues to go on stateside, continues to go on overseas at other bases. Generally speaking, the concept of sexual assault in the military is handled the same and is the same on every single base.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Susan Avila-Smith, you’re well known in the Puget Sound area as an advocate for sexually assaulted military veterans, have been working very hard on this. Again, you’ve been going through radiation. And you’re quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer saying, â€œCancer is curable. PTSD is not.â€
SUSAN AVILA-SMITH: Well, coming to terms with having my own PTSD has taken about a decade to learn to manage my symptoms, rather than my symptoms managing me. Iâ€™m lucky that Iâ€™m a highly functional person with PTSD, because I sought treatment very early on, after I was diagnosed. And as a result, my level of functioning is good, and that’s my hope for Suzanne, is that she gets out and she’s able to get the treatment that she needs so that she can deal with this. As far as my cancer goes, it’s a bump in the road. It’s kind of unfortunate, because Iâ€™m not able to help the number of women that need help, but Iâ€™m not looking at this as, you know, a life-threatening illness or something that’s going to be continuing to linger like my PTSD.
AMY GOODMAN: Susan Avila-Smith, we thank you very much for joining us, founder and director of Women Organizing Women, an advocacy group for survivors of rape in the military. Again, protests are planned for Eugene and outside Fort Lewis, â€œMeet Me in Fort Lewis,â€ in Washington state, for Suzanne on her birthday on Saturday and, her mother says, for all women in the military to protect them. The website, suzanneswift.org. The email address is email@example.com.
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By JAMES HANNAH Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Saturday, February 02, 2008
Family and friends wept and prayed Saturday at a funeral Mass for a pregnant Marine found slain in North Carolina.
The service for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach drew hundreds of mourners to St. Christopher Catholic Church near Dayton.
Four uniformed marines wheeled Lauterbach’s coffin down the aisle to the strains of “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” A small silver casket bearing Lauterbach’s unborn child, who she had named Gabriel, was placed next to it.
Federal authorities have said the man suspected of killing her, Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, has likely fled to Mexico. Lauterbach failed to show up for work in mid-December, and last month her burned remains were found with those of her fetus in a fire pit in the backyard of Laurean’s house in Jacksonville, N.C.
A Marine Corps Honor Guard carries the flag draped coffin of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach into St. Christopher Catholic Church in Vandalia, Ohio, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
The Lauterbach family sat together in the front row. Lauterbach’s mother, Mary, dabbed her eyes with tissues and her father, Vic, comforted Maria’s young brother.
The mourners included uniformed Marines and military veterans.
During his sermon, the Rev. Francis Keferl said Lauterbach had a strong spirit: “We remember her athleticism and her competitive spirit. We remember that she wanted to serve her country as a Marine.”
Outside the church, about 200 members of the Patriot Guard, veterans who ride their motorcycles to military funerals, lined the drive and stood at attention as the hearse arrived. A makeshift sign made of plastic foam cups read: “We Miss You, Maria.”
Later, mourners stood solemnly around the hearse when it arrived at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton. Six Marines saluted and carried Lauterbach’s flag-draped casket to her grave site. A Marine unit gave Lauterbach a 21-gun salute and Taps was played.
Members of Lauterbach’s family said in a statement later that they were touched by the outpouring of love and sympathy from her fellow Marines.
“Maria would want it remembered that despite the fears and frustrations of the past several months, her proudest moments were as a Marine,” the family statement said.
Lauterbach, 20, had accused Laurean of rape in May, a charge he denied. Both were stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Lauterbach’s family issued a statement Friday reiterating concerns about how authorities handled her rape claim.
Naval investigators have said they had no evidence to corroborate the claim, but Lauterbach and Laurean’s regimental commander was intent on taking the case to a hearing that could have led to a trial.
“Published reports and official statements have included some assertions that are inconsistent, illogical, and misleading,” Lauterbach’s family said in the statement, issued through attorneys. “There are many unanswered questions, and we are continuing to review and evaluate the information that has been released.”
The family has previously said Lauterbach had been harassed at Camp Lejeune and accused the Marines of not protecting her.
Despite lingering questions, the family said it was confident that civilian and military authorities would conduct a complete investigation of Lauterbach’s rape claim, her disappearance and Laurean’s flight.
Laurean, who was born in Mexico, is being sought on an indictment charging first-degree murder. He fled North Carolina after leaving a note for his wife saying Lauterbach cut her own throat and that he had buried her body, authorities said.
Capt. Rick Sutherland of the Onslow County, N.C., sheriff’s office said Friday the office was committed to apprehending the person responsible for Lauterbach’s death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Maria this weekend during the Mass of the Christian burial of Maria and her child,” Sutherland said.
A Marine Corps Honor Guard carries the flag draped coffin of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach to her final resting place at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
A Marine Corps Honor Guard fires a 21-gun salute during the funeral of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
The Patriot Guard Riders arrives at St. Christopher Catholic Church for the funeral for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach in Vandalia, Ohio, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. The Patriot Guard Riders are a motorcyclist group comprised primarily of veterans who attend the funerals of members of the U.S. Armed Forces at the invitation of the deceasedï¿•s family. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
A Marine Corps bugler salutes during the funeral of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
A Marine Corps Honor Guard stand at parade rest in the foreground during the funeral of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach at Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. Lauterbach, a pregnant Ohio Marine, was found slain last month in North Carolina, where she was stationed. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
The Vetwow Maria Lauterbach / MST
In light of the murder of Lcpl Maria Lauterbach the organization VETWOW Women Organizing Women Advocates for MST (Military Sexual Trauma) are working on a project to have a large scale memorial erected for both Lcpl Maria Lauterbach and all women and men who have experienced MST.
Maria Lauterbach represents all the cases of women and men on active duty who have experienced MST. Most cases are covered up, hidden far away under a deep dark secrecy so that the American public cannot see it.
America needs to come to terms that Military Sexual Trauma, rape, sexual assault in all it’s forms as well as ongoing sexual harassment IS happening in their armed forces both nationwide and worldwide within all branches.
We are “The Voice” for all who’ve experienced MST with what our organization does to help aid victims. The time is now for our nation to hear these individuals.
This has inspired our vision for a monumental memorial for the American public to view so that we never forget them.
Vetwow wishes to thank many who have expressed a desire to do something to help our organization in regard to MST and the rape and murder of Lcpl Maria Lauterbach. This is how you can help.
We are collectively working to put this together through public and private donations Vetwow is on the cusp of becoming a 501 (3) c Non-Profit tax deductible organization and we are setting up a fund for The Vetwow Maria Lauterbach & MST Memorial Monument.
We are a small organization with limited resources right now while we are in the process of becoming a non-profit. We are reaching out to the community and nation to help us make this memorial happen.
Our Vision of the memorial is of an enormous monumental scale beautifully handcrafted upright Laurel Wreath Sculpture standing on a pedestal. Each leaf will be etched with the name and branch of service for anyone who has experienced MST.
DeEtta R Lubbers
Vetwow Coordinating Director
Maria Lauterbach & MST Memorial Fund