Federal Bill Offers Peer Support to Military Sexual-Assault Survivors
Thursday, July 7, 2022
Bipartisan federal legislation introduced this week would provide more personalized mental health services to survivors of military sexual assault and trauma.
Under the proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs, survivors would have access to peer-support specialists, often someone who has been in a similar situation, to serve as a partner in helping them seek justice.
One in four women in the military reports being a victim or survivor of sexual trauma during their military service. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal - D-CT - one of the bill's co-sponsors, said a peer support specialist can be there in moments of crisis.
"Military sexual trauma is a scourge that needs to be stopped," said Blumenthal. "And one way to do it is through peers, partners, supporting the victims seeking justice. Our men and women who serve and sacrifice for our country deserve to do it without the threat of military sexual trauma."
And for every 100 men in the military, one also reports sexual assault or harassment.
The bill's other prime sponsors include Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto - D-NV - and Sen. John Boozman - R-AR. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Connecticut resident Denise Florio is a peer-support group leader with the Wounded Warrior Project who served as a U.S. Army medic. She said it's been rewarding to help veterans in their recovery process.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people don't want to deal with it," said Florio. "They push it to the back side, because they don't have the support that they need to carry through. And I'm grateful that hopefully, I'll be a part of the VA peer support and help my brothers and sisters through what they need to, and be there as a lending ear, as a support system."
The Wounded Warrior Project hosts peer-support group meetings in Middletown. Between 2016 and 2020, there were more than 160,000 veterans living in Connecticut, according to U.S. Census data.
Peer Support Groups for Veterans the Wounded Warrior Project 2022
QuickFacts Connecticut the U.S. Census 2022
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