Veterans shed light on military sexual trauma

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RENO, NV (KOLO) - Shedding light on military sexual trauma. This week, local veterans are sharing their survivor stories by hanging t-shirts as a way of healing and awareness.

More than 50 t-shirts hang by a clothespin inside the VA Sierra Nevada Care System building, representing “Strength, hope, resiliency,” says Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator Monique Foreman.

The t-shirts were made by veterans who have lived through military sexual trauma.

“It’s just here to bring a bit of light to just how pervasive it can be and just how much it can affect people,” says Marine veteran and sexual violence survivor Shannon Bender.

Bender is a military sexual violence survivor who recently took advantage of the VA services.

“About 6 months ago I could never fathom being able to talk about it in public,” says Bender.

Bender says after receiving treatment at the Reno VA, her life has made a 180, but adds she knows how hard it is for survivors to reach out for help and be vulnerable.

“A lot of that is just coming to terms with it and realizing in your own head that, wow, that was a pretty terrible thing that person did to me, not anything that I did, I didn’t cause anything, it’s not my fault,” says Bender.

Foreman says it’s not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to wait years to seek help.

Foreman adds the Clothesline Project represents the 1,036 veterans who have chosen to get help at the Reno VA in the hopes that other survivors will see they are not alone.

“It’s a long process to get to get to a point in life where people are satisfied, and this usually helps bridge some of that,” says Foreman.

Foreman says if you are a veteran and want help it’s easy to apply.

“In accessing care all they need to do is present to the Reno VA. Once they do that all they need to disclose is military sexual trauma; they can say MST and not share their story until they are ready to share their story. A lot of times people don’t know that they are eligible for free services that they otherwise would not be eligible for if they didn’t experience a military sexual trauma,” says Foreman.

For more information or to contact the VA Services for Military Sexual Trauma in Reno, call 775-326-2920 or 775-786-7200.

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