I am a Veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from being raped while serving in the U.S Armed Forces. Every single time that I go for rape counseling at the Phoenix VA Medical Center I get sexually harassed by other patients. No matter how bad I look the harassment is inevitable.
One recent afternoon I was still crying after my counseling session. I was waiting for the elevator to go to another appointment. I had my head down and tears rolling down my cheeks when a man wearing a Vietnam Veteran ball cap came up to me, put his arm around my shoulders and told me that I am “too pretty to be crying”. I pushed him away from me and it offended him. He asked why I was acting so “bitchy” if he was “only trying to help me.”
Here is a man that is old enough to be my father and he felt entitled to just come up to me, comment on my looks, tell me my emotions are invalid and then touch me.
I wish that I can say that this was an isolated incident. As a young woman veteran being sexually harassed or even worse when I go for rape counseling at the VA is something that I have to suffer through every week. When you complain to anyone in position at the VA regardless if it is the patient advocate or the women veteran program manager or even the office of the VA’s Director they refuse to take any actions and it is always “I am sorry that you feel this way” as if feeling bad for being sexually harassed when going for rape counseling is somehow my fault.
I have spoken to other women veterans that feel the same exact way. Some even stopped going to the PhoenixVA all together and are ignoring their health need. Women are veterans too. We earned the right to go to the VA for treatment. However when even the staff at the PhoenixVA sees nothing wrong with women veterans being sexually harassed on a regular basis how are things ever going to change?
There are an estimated 19,000 rapes each year in the military. Roughly 10% of all rapes are ever reported. Over 98% of rapists in the military never spend a day in prison and almost all of them receive an Honorable Discharge when they leave the service. Many of these rapists end up at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and continue to terrorize their female comrades.