Display raises awareness about military sexual trauma

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A powerful display at the VA Western New York is highlighting the severity of military sexual trauma.

The Clothesline Project features T-shirts with emotional messages from those with experience of sexual trauma and recovery. The display is not only a way for survivors to heal from sexual trauma, sexual assault and sexual abuse, but to raise awareness of available resources.

Rebecca Welch, Western New York Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator, said, “Each of the shirts has been created by a veteran, either male or female that has survived an experience of sexual trauma, sexual harassment throughout their military experience.”

Navy Veteran Rosalie Cooper was a victim of domestic assault.

She said, “The VA cares about what’s going on in the military and the military doesn’t really care. Because it’s very difficult to report anything that goes on and they don’t do anything about it.”

There is support growing in Washington to force the military to do more make reporting sexual assault less intimidating, but it’s a tough battle.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to strip unit commanders from deciding whether or not to prosecute cases failed in March.

Another bill did pass just days later that made smaller changes, including giving victims formal input into whether their case is tried in military or civilian court

As efforts to prevent assault continue, the VA hopes displays like these will let victims know they’re not alone.

Welch explained, “Recovery is possible, people can work through some of these terrible experiences they have had and live a more fulfilling and hopeful life.”

To contact the VA Western New York Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator, the number is 585-297-1214. For information on military sexual trauma counseling, visit this website.

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