Bay Pines VA Helping Military Sexual Trauma Survivors

Art therapy is one of the many recreational therapies offered to veterans at the Bay Pines VA military sexual trauma program for veterans.

The Department of Defense estimates 14,900 service members experienced some kind of sexual assault in 2016 – its most recent report. But because of the stigma – many wait decades before they get help – usually from the VA.

So it’s no surprise, the average age is 45 for women and 50 for men for veterans entering the Bay Pines VA Center for Sexual Trauma Services in St. Petersburg.

The delay seeking treatment is in part due to the increased level of power and control associated with military sexual trauma said Jessica Keith, a clinical psychologist and manager of the Bay Pines sexual trauma center.

“The perpetrators are often someone in the command line, someone with power. And power not only to ruin someone’s career, to impact their standing in the military,” Keith said. “We also have to remember these are people with weapons who are trained to use them. So, it can be terrifying when you’re sexually traumatized in the military.” Continue reading


West Point Women Reflect On Marines’ Nude Photo Scandal

Laura Westley and Carol Barkalow are both West Point graduates and authors of memoires about their military experiences.
Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

The recent scandal over Marines sharing nude photos of female Marines online hasn’t demoralized some women veterans. Two female West Point graduates from Florida refuse to let it overshadow recent gains women have made in the military. And they have some ideas on how to prevent similar incidents.

The United States Military Academy at West Point didn’t even accept women in their ranks until 1976. Carol Barkalow was in that first class. She graduated in 1980 and served 22 years in the Army.

Barkalow remembers how female cadets were hazed and harassed back then. But she said women have made progress since, even in light of the nude photos.

“There is some good news with this, even though what they did was horrible,” Barkalow said. “Now, we have the social media and the interest to try at last to get the military to understand that we are a vital part of this force. We are never going away and some very basic things have to change within our military.”

West Point has come a long way over the last 40 years, she said. It now has a female dean of students and female commandant.

“But what we have to have – we have to have women, general officers admirals in every rank in each of the services. So much so that, when you walk in a room, it’s not just one woman, it’s not just two women, it’s a number of women sitting at the table and have the ability to influence our future,” Barkalow said.

Barkalow, who lives in Pinellas County, is friends with 2001 West Point graduate Laura Westley, who grew up in New Port Richey. Continue reading

Military Sexual Assault Report From The Academies

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

There’s a bit of good news, but more not-so-good news in this year’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies just released by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The good news comes from the Air Force Academy “which received 32 reports of sexual assault (15 Unrestricted and 17 Restricted Reports) down from 49 reports in academic program year 2014-2015” according to the report.

But there were increased incidents from both the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy:

The Military Academy received 26 reports (20 Unrestricted and 6 Restricted Reports) up from 17 reports and the Naval Academy received 28 reports (20 Unrestricted and 8 Restricted Reports) up from 25 reports in academic program year 2014- 2015.

Another conclusion by the report, 89 percent of cadets and midshipmen who experienced sexual harassment or gender discrimination report it was committed by another academy student. The full report in PDF is available here.

Florida Puts Out Call To All Women Veterans

Florida has 160,000 women veterans living in the state, yet some of those women do not consider themselves a veteran and many more have never applied for veterans’ benefits.

 Female Veterans in Iraq. A New Resource for Female Vet on VA health care and benefits: 1-855-VA-WOMEN. Credit Department of Veterans Affairs

Female Veterans in Iraq. A New Resource for Female Vet on VA health care and benefits: 1-855-VA-WOMEN.
Credit Department of Veterans Affairs

Matching women veterans with available benefits, resources and support is the goal of the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference July 30-31, 2015 at the University of South Florida

“Women veterans have a lot of gender specific issues,” said Alene Tarter, director of benefits and assistance for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA). “But often they don’t consider themselves veterans because male veterans or male family members have told them that they are not.”

She said many of the older women veterans are unaware that their veterans or entitled to veterans benefits.

“I’m a veteran. I only served a couple of years in the Air Force and I didn’t know I was a veteran for 25 years,” said Larri Gerson, supervisor of claims for FDVA.

From a previous Operation Stand Down.

From a previous Operation Stand Down.

Raising awareness and then helping women file for their veteran benefits is one reason why the state agency is planning the free, two-day conference in Tampa.

“I’ll be talking about the appeals process having women veterans understand what we can do to help them with their claim for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and MST, military sexual trauma,” Gerson said.

Sessions also will cover employment, vocational training, and an elder law expert along with an opportunity to sit down with benefits experts from the FDVA who will help women vets with their claims.

The 2nd Annual Florida Women’s Veterans Conference is free and open to women vets, their spouses and support. Online registration is available through the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Art Therapy in Action at Veterans Open Mic Night

Veterans Open Mic night with co-hosts playwright Linda Parris-Bailey (center) and Andrea Assaf (right).

Veterans Open Mic night with co-hosts playwright Linda Parris-Bailey (center) and Andrea Assaf (right).

Beyond the battlefield and the barracks, some of Florida’s 1.5 million veterans have had trouble transitioning to civilian life. Yet, there are signs that poetry, art, music and performance are helping veterans adjust.

With Veterans’ Day approaching, we bring you their stories this week in a special edition of Florida Matters.

These are highlights from the October 2014 <a href=””>Veterans Open Mic Night</a> at Tampa’s <a href=””>Sacred Grounds Coffee House</a>. Military veterans meet there every first Sunday to share their talents and stories.

Cheldyn Donovan is a Vietnam Veteran who has experienced homelessness, PTSD, social phobia, but he finds playing the guitar eases his symptoms.

Cheldyn Donovan is a Vietnam Veteran who has experienced homelessness, PTSD, social phobia, but he finds playing the guitar eases his symptoms.

The WUSF <em>Veterans Coming Home</em> project partnered with <a href=””>Art-2-Action Tampa Veterans</a> to bring you this evening of poetry and music with military veterans.

The emcees for the evening were Andrea Assaf, director of Art-2-Action, and guest playwright Linda Parris-Bailey who wrote the play, Speed Killed My Cousin, about returning veterans.

The highlights feature veterans Charla  Gautierre, Cheldyn Donovan and Marc Reid. Listen below to the Florida Matters 30-minute special show featuring the veterans as performers which aired Nov. 4 and Nov. 9, 2014.


Researching Military Sexual Assault Prevention

Diane Price-Herndl, chair of the USF Women and Gender Studies and the Women's Status Committee.

Diane Price-Herndl, chair of the USF Women and Gender Studies and the Women’s Status Committee.

One in every five women and one in every 100 men have told the VA that they experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.

Those numbers have both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs working on solutions for treatment and the prevention of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

The head of the Women and Gender Studies and the Women’s Status Committee at the University of South Florida, Diane Price-Herndl, thinks her academic expertise can help with healing and prevention.

“This is a place where academics have not done our due diligence,” Price-Herndl said. “We’ve got men and women in the service who are suffering. And they are suffering from things that ostensibly my discipline studies and works on.”

She said Women and Gender Studies has done a lot of research on sexual assault in the general population that might prove helpful for the problem in the military.

Credit: Iowa VA

Credit: Iowa VA

So, Price-Herndl is starting that discussion at a one-day symposium on Military Sexual Trauma planned April 8 at USF Marshall Student Center in Tampa.

The idea is to share strategies and research across disciplines and agencies. Researchers from Bay Pines VA and James A. Haley VA will join USF academics from nursing, theater, and other departments. Each will present their current research on MST and there will be a chance to brainstorm.

One session will explore a project Price-Herndl is developing, The Witness Project. It hopes to archive and use the written and oral stories of military sexual trauma survivors as teaching tools for prevention programs developed for the Department of Defense.

Additionally, a round-table is planned at the conclusion of the symposium will take up the problem of sexual assault among the general population on college campuses.

For details on “USF Responds to Military Sexual Trauma: A Research Symposium,” contact Diane Price-Herndl at .

General Pleads Guilty to Adultry, Still Faces Assault Charges

Courtesy of the Policy Front and

Courtesy of the Policy Front and

The NPR blog that reports breaking news, The Two-Way,  has posted this item:

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery and two other charges in a court martial proceeding on Thursday, but he still faces the most serious charge of sexually assaulting a female captain.

Sinclair, 51, a former deputy commander with the 82ndAirborne Division, admitted to an extramarital affair with the captain and “inappropriate relationships” with two other women. Adultery is considered an offense under military law. He also pleaded guilty to possessing pornography while stationed in Afghanistan, a violation of orders in the conservative Muslim country, The Associated Press reports.

The New York Times says decision to plead guilty to possessing pornography “came after Army prosecutors made it clear on Wednesday that they wanted to show the military jury reams of pornography that they said General Sinclair had illegally watched in Afghanistan. It would illustrate, they said, sexual desires that led him to assault a junior officer.”

You can read the full post here.

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