It's not always obvious when military sexual trauma or harassment has occurred. "It's probably not going to be revealed to the family," Bill says. "In many cases, a lot of the trauma, especially if it's a military sexual trauma, the victim's embarrassed by it. Sometimes they feel that they are to blame for it, which is tragic. So they're not necessarily going to reveal to their parents or their brothers and sisters that that happened to them."
If a loved one does share this news with you, shower her in love and offer to support her any way you can. Helping her seek professional care or referring her to a veteran organization are good ways to start.
Female veterans of the past wouldn't always seek out the VA for their services, but women are beginning to use the organization to deal with issues like military sexual trauma. "They didn't identify themselves as veterans as readily as males did," Bill says. "But now, about 15 percent of the service members are women. More and more, they are reaching out to the VA, identifying themselves as veterans, and if they have specific issues, addressing them."
Regardless of whether a female service members experiences sexual trauma before or during her deployment, being in a hostile environment like Iraq or Afghanistan can trigger the symptoms of military sexual trauma, he explains. "It can make the symptoms of PTSD that much worse," he says.