VetWow’s Short Podcasts for MST Survivors, Friends and Family

Oct 6, 2010 by

Susan Avila Smith Military Sexual Trauma, like PTSD another “invisible wound,” is unfortunately more prevalent in the military than we would want to believe, though little discussed officially. It’s different though when combatants get together who have experienced it. Among female service members in particular, it is all too often a common experience; and whether among male or female service members, the after-effects can be devastating.

At its root, it is a betrayal of trust — the military is designed to be a “family unit,” so assault within this context can feel to survivors like incest — and many survivors describe the hazing by their command as more difficult in its own way than the actual assault (ugh). Civilians in particular have a hard time wrapping their brains around how prevalent the problem is, how light or nonexistent the penalties (despite official “policies” to the contrary), and how devastating the aftermath is for those who suffer — who then have to navigate an often-byzantine system of claims and benefits for their care. (Fortunately, MST survivors are able to access VA in a very direct manner…it’s worth watching Susan’s video discussion, linked here, to understand how.) Family and friends — who may find themselves supporting the survivor — also need education about how best to offer support, in ways that are constructive and not counter-productive or further traumatizing.

We’ve written about military sexual assault on the site before, here. “Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, unsolicited, threatening acts of sexual harassment — that occurred while the veteran was in the military.”

Susan Avila-Smith, a former Army linguist who suffered her own sexual assault in the military, is now a formidable MST/PTSD advocate and the founder of VetWow, where she advocates for others who have experienced MST and PTSD, and focuses on resolving their claims. A settled claim can provide the MST survivor with financial independence, which is important also in healing. Avila-Smith does not charge for her services, though she does encourage the male and female survivors to pay this service forward in their own lives, once they have stabilized enough to do so, by contributing to others in various ways.

Recently I got a chance to work with Avila-Smith on creating a “channel” on YouTube for short, one to three minute podcasts about various aspects of MST for survivors, their families and friends, their advocates and the media. The videos/podcasts are organized into the following categories. Please watch them, and share them with your friends and colleagues. Particularly let those in the military (active duty) and veterans know about this resource. As Avila-Smith herself says, it’s important to get the word out about military sexual trauma, because “you can’t tell by looking at someone” if they’ve ever been sexually assaulted. For those who have been, these resources can be tremendously reassuring, constructive and helpful.

Please subscribe to Susan Avila-Smith’s YouTube Channel where you will find video resources that clearly provide resources for all of the following groups and concerns:

For female MST survivors

For male  MST survivors

Self-care and healing resources

For friends and family of MST survivors

For active duty military

Dealing with the VA

Filing and winning a claim

For advocates

For prospective donors

For the media