Military Sexual Trauma
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I recently received this question-"Dear Dr Mic Hunter, what advise can you give me for a female friend who blames herself from being sexually abused as a child whom is now an adult?? Pls advise! Thanks!!" Rather than just write back to this one person I thought I would answer it here since it is a common problem. People have this belief for two reasons. First because the perpetrator of the crime tells the victim it is his or her fault the abuse is taking place. Second because if one believes abuse is one's own fault then one can change one's behavior and thereby prevent future abuse. When I have a client that suffers under the mistaken belief that the abuse was the result of his or her's own actions I ask if the client knows anyone the age at which the abuse first took place, and what that child would have to do, or not do, that would cause someone to abuse that child. Usually the answer is, "There is nothing that child could do that would justify or require someone to abuse." Exactly.
By definition abuse is something not justifiable. The criminal justice system is empowered to punish criminals, but is not supposed to abuse them. The abuse of anyone is unjustified.
If at all possible people who have been abused who accept blame for it ought to find a support group or therapy group for people who have been abused. In a very short time, the compassion they have for the other members of the group will positively affected their own self-image. Those who do not have access to these groups can still get support by going bulletin boards or other websites such as MaleSurvivor.org.Back to Top
Therapist Ought To Be Alert For Sexual Abuse With Veterans By Mic Hunter, Psy.D., L.M.F.T., L.P.
Most therapist know when taking a history if the client served in the military it is a good idea to find out if that included combat experience. However, few therapists think to inquire if sexual assault by one's comrades was a part of military service. Unfortunately over 30% of women and 10% of men returning from the Middle East are disclosing that their comrades in arms betrayed their trust and sexually assaulted them. Some experienced multiple assaults, and even gang rapes. The Pentagon quietly acknowledges that most sexual assaults go unreported because military personnel fear they will be blamed for what happened or punished. Women who report sexual assault run the risk of her superior determining that contact was consensual and being charged with fraternization. Men who dare report being assault by another male risk being label as homosexuals and being dishonorably discharged.
In my experience few veterans, particularly males, disclose their experience to their partner. The first time it is spoken of may well be in a therapy session. Therapists can make the disclosure easier for both the victim and the family member by acknowledging that sexual abuse does occur in military settings, that most personnel do not immediately disclose it, and that having such a painful secret can severely affect a couple's ability to be intimate emotionally and sexually.
In doing research for Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America's Military I discovered that even though many of those who told me their stories had obtained therapy they did not disclose the abuse. When asked the reason the two most common reasons given were, "I thought I was the only one," and "Nobody asked." As therapists supporting the troops means asking about abuse and responding appropriately when it is revealed.Back to Top