Survivors of Trauma
Survivors of Trauma
“Seemingly my senses and body would hijack my mind, and I could only be a witness looking out as I reflexively reacted to apparent hostility.” – PTS Survivor
All service members are at risk for experiencing trauma during their military service. Many enter the military with significant trauma already in their pasts; this history puts them at higher risk for trauma throughout their lives. Trauma affects people regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, rank, occupation or length of service. Trauma isn’t limited only to combat zones either.
Trauma leaves deep, invisible wounds that, if untreated, destroy a service member’s life and those around them. It makes service members more vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, higher rates of domestic violence and divorce, feelings of shame, and difficulty in the workplace. Two categories of trauma are most often seen in service members – Post Traumatic Stress and Military Sexual Trauma.
Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)
When a service member experiences or witnesses an event where they feel their own or another’s life or physical integrity is threatened, it can have lasting negative events. Roughly 22% of service members are referred for help related to post traumatic stress.
That’s more than one in five.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
When any service member experiences sexual harassment or assault in a military setting, it can be debilitating. 55% of female service members and 38% of male service members reported experiencing sexual harassment during their military service. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates that one in five women and one in 100 men experience MST. (Keep in mind that these numbers are probably much higher, as only reported cases are counted. Survivors of MST, especially men, can be very hesitant to report.)
Living with trauma is hard in the military culture. Service members often hesitate or refuse to seek help for fear of being labeled as a problem by their command or peers. Friends and family who don’t understand how trauma affects them say things like “snap out of it” or “that was a long time ago”. This only adds to their frustration, sense of isolation and other symptoms.
Ignoring or hiding trauma and the pain it causes won’t make it go away. We must create a culture of acceptance, compassion and support for those who suffer from PTS and MST.