Editor’s note: This is part four of an eight-part series about sexual assault awareness.
In November 2012, I returned to work after taking leave from the Air Force for a month and a half.
During my absence, I used mental health services to reduce my stress due to my son’s hospitalization and my recurring nightmares of a sexual assault that happened almost 20 years earlier.
Things had been going well but all of a sudden, my therapy sessions at mental health were not as effective. I realized the therapy sessions themselves were causing stress, especially when I attended a session with my therapist during the duty day and then went straight back to work.
The worst scenario for me was to lead a group discussion or give a briefing right after a therapy session. I had no time to reflect on the therapy session, nor did I have time to normalize my emotions after discussing the horrific sexual assault with my therapist.
To counter this stress, I tried to use Military OneSource to get a referral for evening therapy sessions with an off-base provider. Military OneSource can provide referrals to downtown providers for military members and their families for up to 12 sessions of confidential, non-medical counseling.
Confidential, non-medical counseling addresses issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, re-adjustment following a deployment, marital problems, parenting, grief and loss. However, I found out Military OneSource counseling is not designed to address such issues as sexual assault, active suicidal or homicidal thoughts, child abuse, domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse or mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
It is also not suitable for anyone who has been prescribed psychoactive medication or is currently receiving therapy with another practitioner.
It also is not appropriate for Family Advocacy Program cases, fitness-for-duty evaluations or court-ordered counseling.
Since Military OneSource was not an option for me in this case, I was referred back to the Mental Health Clinic on base. I submitted a suggestion to allow use of this resource for active-duty military sexual assault survivors-writing the suggestion to improve Military OneSource services also helped me feel better.
After being referred back to mental health, I worked with my therapist to schedule appointments for the last hour of the duty day. Although she didn’t traditionally see patients at that time, she did allow me to come then. If I had given up on finding a way to receive much-needed therapy, I would not have continued to recover from the trauma of the sexual assault.
Finally, I can make a difference and so can you.
What you can do: 1) Don’t give up! Find a way to get the resources you need to recover; 2) If you are a supervisor of a sexual assault survivor and need relief from stress, Military OneSource is available; 3) Supervisors please allow your Airmen the time they need to seek treatment. Recovering from a sexual assault isn’t as obvious as recovering from a broken leg but both need to be tended to by a professional to ensure proper healing.
About the Author: This is an event in my life I want to share with you so you can gain insight from my experience as part of the “Story Teller’s Campaign.” As part of the “Every Airman has a Story Campaign,” I am a confident young lady-I like to ensure I leave every program I touch better than I found it. I am and have been many things: a mother, sister, wife, daughter, snowboarder, adventure racer, motorcycle rider, leader, program manager, avionics technician, engineer, physicist, Air Liaison Officer,
United Nations Military Observer and U.S. delegate to NATO. My philosophy is “bloom where planted and never ignore something you can fix or influence fixing.” I teach and empower my team members to be better than me.