Military Sexual Trauma Workshop
On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the Student Association of Social Workers at Eastern New Mexico University presented a workshop on Military Sexual Trauma (MST). The workshop featured three speakers: Carol Meza-Bakke, a social work Ph.D. student at Our Lady of the Lake University; Jeanine Solberg, an MST survivor; and Kaitlan Ducken, the outreach specialist from Arise Sexual Assault Services and Child Advocacy Center.
Meza-Bakke led off the conference; as a student researching and studying various aspects of different social work subjects, she gave some background information on Military Sexual Trauma. She has a special interest in the subject because she served in the Army National Guard for twelve years; she started as a private, the beginning position, and worked her way up to a leadership position. She worked in a social work-like position while in the National Guard, and one of the early cases she worked on had to do with MST; the case, however, did not have a positive resolution. Meza-Bakke said that when she reported the case, she was told to “let it go” because it would have ruined the perpetrator’s career. Despite this incident, she insisted that things like this do not always happen in the military. She also gave some statistics and information about the cases where this does take place. She noted that the Marines have the highest number of MST cases; also, in 2018, MST was at its’ peak with a 40 percent jump from 2016, a study showed. She also mentioned that the victims usually develop mental and physical health issues, the perpetrators are often in leadership positions, and they do not always face consequences. She also added that though there is not a lot of information to prove it, researchers believe that the number of male victims is likely close to the number of female victims; the reason they do not have the numbers to prove this is because they believe male victims are less likely to report cases.
The next speaker was Solberg, a MST survivor, who spoke of her experience in the military and her own experience with military sexual trauma. She started by noting that she “didn’t have any childhood trauma.” She only served in the military for about a year, where she was stationed in Okinawa, Japan as a military intelligence agent. She said that there was a ratio of “three women to about fifty guys.” There were also special forces units there; she was amongst a group of people told to “stay away from the green berets” by a superior. However, because of her position as an intelligence agent, she did have to work with them at times. Then, she said, “things happened” and she ended up in the hospital because of “the incident.” Everyone at the base knew, because it was a small base. After this, she had to end her deployment, and said that her transition home “was tough.” Upon returning home, she mentioned that she didn’t discuss what had happened because they didn’t talk about “those things.” Even though she didn’t talk about what happened, she said that she felt fine; it wasn’t until she started working at the Veterans Affairs Hospital years later, where she worked on sexual trauma cases, that these old feeling and emotions came up. She was ultimately diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The workshop was her first time ever publicly speaking about it. She was sure to mention that MST “is not a condition,” but it “caused a condition” that doesn’t always happen right away, but can come up later in life.
The final speaker was Ducken, the outreach specialist from Arise Sexual Assault Services and Child Advocacy Center. Arise has four aspects: advocacy, medical, counseling and outreach. She said that the advocacy part it to “support that survivor throughout their treatment journey.” For medical aspects, nurses are “survivor centered,” and will not try to push someone to say or do something that they do not want to, she said. She also noted that all of Arise’s resources are free, and that “it’s important to take care of yourself.”