During a discussion with the directors of the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services (GACVS) and Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence (GCSDV), Lt. Governor Tim Murray tasked us with convening a joint working group on military sexual trauma. Assistant Secretary of Veterans Services and Coleman Nee and I pulled together interested members of both Councils, as well as representatives the National Guard, the Veterans Administration, MA Department of Public Health, and community based service providers such as the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to address and better meet the needs of Massachusetts residents who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma.
These meetings have been the first statewide attempt to engage a wide array of interested participants––military/civilian, private/public, governmental/NGOs, medical/legal––to embark on an on effort to identify obstacles and systemically address the needs of men and women in Massachusetts who are dealing with the short and long term effects of Military Sexual Trauma. From the beginning a supportive, respectful tone has led the group to familiarize each other with the very different history, culture, policy and procedure development of the civilian sexual assault movement and the military response to MST, thus beginning to bridge these two bodies of work. The Joint Working Group has provided a safe and positive learning environment to address the complicated issues that arise.
In June, we held the 2nd Annual Massachusetts Women Veterans Conference. US Asst. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth was the keynote speaker at this gathering of several hundred women vets in June at UMass Medical Center. Members of the joint working group provided assistance in planning and day-of leadership presenting a panel on Military Sexual Trauma and available supportive services. Further outreach to community-based civilian support services ensured that the “Resource Area” was informative, broad-based and diverse.
This spring, the MST Joint Working Group will embark upon a series of discussions with several “groups” in the National Guard that specifically work with MST survivors including, Chaplains, JAG Corp and Mental Health providers. The goal is to further build the network to support survivors of MST and to prevent MST.
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