Military Sexual Trauma Victims Bill of Rights

The Military Sexual Trauma Movement, Inc., (“MST”), is formed to protect service men and women who have experienced the unimaginable trauma of military sexual assault.  We advocate for them by using this platform to call for the implementation of a Military Sexual Trauma Victims Bill of Rights. The MST Movement will serve to help survivors heal and create a community that will serve as a sign of hope for future generations of young people who desire to serve their country by entering the United States Military.

 

The MST Movement demands the enactment of policies and procedures from federal and state governments, military agencies and local jurisdictions. We are seeking policies that will put an end to the institutionalized conditions that further victimize and take the lives of service members who have suffered from Military Sexual Trauma.

 

The consequences that accompany and lie within the very nature of Military Sexual Trauma are often unheard of or spoken about. The injuries and sometimes loss of life that occur as a result of MST ripple out into society, beginning with the victim, everyone is affected by MST. Family member, employers and neighbors are no exception, everyone feels its affect one way or another. Some of the most known consequences of MST are drug addiction, homelessness and the many countless deaths that have been caused by MST.

 

Enacting the MST Bill of Rights will ensure that victims who have been traumatized while in service will have access to the same rights and protections as other veterans. This Bill seeks to change Institutional policies that do not acknowledge victims or their pain from all levels of government. All veterans should not only to be protected by the country it serviced but honored for their bravery to heal and not stay victims but also for Breaking the Silence of MST.

 

The following are the specific rights and policy initiatives we are seeking and the reasons for each:

 

Policy No. #1:    Designate Mental Health professionals from the VA to be assigned to active duty service members at the time MST is reported.

 

Reasons:

 

  • This initiative ensures all cases reported become a part of the VA official records in their data system and that MST victims are guaranteed access to mental health physicians and facilities. According United States Department of Veterans Affairs, in a study done from 2001-2007, suicide death rates among female veterans were about a Third of that of suicide rates of male veterans. The study records 738 non-deployment female deaths and 109 of them were caused by suicide (VA.gov Non-Combat vs. Combat Suicides). Having access to mental health professionals from the time of reporting, will reduce reported suicide rates.

 

  • This initiative will also guarantee access to inpatient services and other support services to prevent homelessness immediately upon separation. A report performed just three short years ago by a Human Rights Watch organization (https://www.hrw.org/report/2015) recorded that 53% of homeless female veterans report being victims of Military Sexual Trauma.

 

Policy #2:    Provide the option for the MST victims to sign up for housing benefits and spending stipends for 36 months after separation.

 

  • This NYS State bill also seeks to secure temporary housing in the form of temporary Medicaid benefits until the VA benefits take effect.

 

Reasons:

 

  • This allows MST veterans to attend various therapeutic programs at the VA without having to fend for survival after separation. This time frame also gives way to ensure that treatment is effective and that MST veterans can enter the U.S. private and public sectors with the proper tools to manage PTSD.

 

Policy #3:  Lift the restrictions on medical marijuana through the VA by legalizing medical marijuana; Expand current clinical trials for Marijuana as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and usher in approval from the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency on a phase three trial.

 

Reasons:

 

  • A study conducted recently published in Molecular Psychiatry suggest that treatment using certain compounds found in marijuana may benefit those with PTSD, and that “plant-derived cannabinoids [psychoactive chemicals] in marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”

 

  • Research published on Science Daily also looked at symptom reduction in patients with PTSD. As a result of taking medical marijuana, participants reported a decrease in re-experiencing the trauma, less avoidance of situations that reminded them of the trauma, and a decline in hyper-arousal (www.hrw.org/report).

 

  • While some veterans are lucky enough to be able to use private doctors and insurance to access medical marijuana, most veterans coming home are not afforded that luxury. The majority of Veterans who seek this “alternative treatment” have to go as far as violating the law to obtain that medication.

 

Policy No. #4:  End government support and funding of addictive pharmaceuticals such as Ketamine and LSD; Reverse the policies enacted by section V of the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act.



Reasons:

  • Short-term side effects include bad hallucinations. As with all psychotropic drugs, the pleasantness of the hallucination depends on the user's state of mind, and if the user is seeking to escape unhappiness, the hallucinations are likely to be unpleasant.

 

  • There are many risk associated with the use of Ketamine, especially addiction. In a recent study published in BioMed Center (BMC) Medical Ethics, researchers urge doctors to "minimize the risk to patients" by considering carefully the evidence before prescribing ketamine off-label for patients to treat depression and prevent suicide.

 

 

 

Policy No. #5: The right to report MST free of retaliation. Any charge that occur after MST is reported, should be investigated by an independent review board.

 

Reasons:

  • Current chain of command processes is rife with opportunities for retaliation as a victim may be under the command of parties involved in their traumatic event.

 

Policy No. #6: The right to separate from the Military once there are findings to support MST

Reason:

  • The current policy prevents victims of MST from separating from the military which can increase the effects of the trauma.

 

 

Policy No. #7: The right to have the option to join another branch of service or opt to enter the civilian world upon once there are findings to support MST. 

 

Reasons:

  • Many Victims end up “Unauthorized Absence” in order to flee from retaliation and repeated victimization. Having the option to continue service in another branch or enter civilian life will prevent further miscarriage of justice

 

Policy No. #8: Create an independent review board administered through the Veterans Administration to determine MST discharges; Remove MST discharges from the Chain of Command (COC) across all branches.

 

Reason:

  • The right for MST discharges to be strictly determined through the VA would ensure that mental health professionals determine our VA benefits based on our needs. This would also ensure that there is one stream of leadership responsible for the process

 

Policy No. #9: Enact a program requiring all Military leadership across all branches take annual trainings of MST.

 

Reasons:

  • Due to the pervasive nature of this injury that continues to be sustained by service members across branches, it is imperative that something must be done. In order to address the culture of the military that perpetuates this mindset, which is almost always inflicted by fellow service members and/or superiors, leadership need to know how to identify it as well as behaviors leading up to a potential violation in order to end the behavior. All service members should have training on how to approach an MST victim as well as how to report an MST occurrence.

 

Policy No. #10: We demand that report be required and made to the public regarding MST reports and findings.

Reasons:

  • The right for the American public to vote out leaders who fail to improve the lives of MST victims. Each senior leader, having performance standards related to MST victims. As MST PTSD, veteran homelessness, substance abuse and suicide are all expenses the American taxpayers.

 



Policy No. #11: Once the MST Victims Bill of Rights is enacted, victims should be able to apply to have their rights reinstated regardless of when their separation happened as a result of MST or retaliation.

 

Reasons:

 

Policy No. #12: A national monument to be commissioned and installed honoring all the MST veterans.

 

Reasons:

  • Recognizing and honoring the sacrifice and the countless people who have died from MST.

Policy No. #13: That states adopt a unified criminal system for MST offenders or that Federal criminal courts laws are created and decided on outside of the military.

 

Reasons:

  • Many perpetrators are repeat offenders and have benefited from the imbalance of power in the military judicial system.  Perpetrators should be held accountable in a criminal court.

 

Policy No. #14: That MST victims are provided with an attorney at the time the MST report is made.

 

Reasons:

  • As a result of the nature of the Military judicial system, victims are at a disadvantage when trying to substantiate their cases.  Having proper legal representation will allow them to better access justice.

 


Signed,





Janelle Marina Mendez

Military Sexual Trauma Movement

Founder & President

EndMST.org

April 20th, 2019




 

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