The increased public attention to the chronic underreporting of sexual assault in the U.S. military is shedding light on what might deter vulnerable female veterans from seeking the help from the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Sadly, some women may need help for the same reason they are disinclined to ask for it. As Helen Benedict, the author of Sand Queen and The Lonely Soldier, explained to HuffPost Live: "We've got to back to the causes of homelessness, which are highly tied to military sexual assault."
According to Benedict, women who've suffered trauma from sexual assault may be hesitant to seek help from male-dominated VA hospitals. "[They] don’t want to go near the VA because it only re-traumatizes them,” Benedict told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani, adding that the military's "blame-the-victim culture" makes women feel like they don't "deserve to have help, let alone seek it."
A Pentagon survey estimated that there were 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, but only 3,374 were actually reported. In 2013, the number of reported cases jumped to 5,061, according to The New York Times.
While the number of reported cases is rising, Benedict emphasized the VA's responsibility in helping these women feel safe.
"We need to go back and address all these problems and help women understand that when they’ve served the country, they deserve all the help they can get," Benedict said.
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