email@example.comIn the past year, more than 1,000 people who have experienced military sexual trauma have sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health Care System.
An outreach event from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday will take place at the Topeka VA in hopes of providing increased awareness and accessibility for veterans who have experienced sexual assault and their families.
Gary Napier, coordinator of military sexual trauma services for the Topeka VA, said sexual assault is under-reported, especially among men. Though officially, 25 percent of women and 2 percent of men reported being sexually assaulted, Napier said he suspects that number is much higher in reality.
However, the rate of men coming forward in recent years is on the rise. In the region, the highest number of incidents are coming from Junction City, Leavenworth and St. Joseph, Mo.
The event will include a number of community organizations and agencies that provide services such as the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Napier said 13 tables will be set up for agencies to display information, and that they hope about 150 people will turn out for the event.
“In addition to hearing from veterans, we will have a chance to talk with military and community agencies about some of the challenges we are having and how, working together, we might better deal with these,” Napier said. “Awareness and access to service are major challenges we face.”
Some individuals may be eligible to receive treatment for sexual assault even if they aren’t eligible for other VA services, Napier said. Victims of military sexual assault may be eligible to receive free physical and emotional therapies and medications related to the assault through the VA. Therapeutic options include individual, group and even equine therapy.
Napier said there is a “boys will be boys” mentality in some mliitary units. Many women serve in a culture that tolerates sexual harassment that interferes with their ability to function and becomes traumatic. One patient recently was treated after attempting to commit suicide, he said. Many incidents, which can occur while on or off duty, go unreported because the victim is afraid of retribution.
The outreach event also will take place April 29 at the Leavenworth VA.