Rep. Louise M. Slaughter and renowned clinicians shared their expertise about military sexual assault at the CDS Monarch Warrior Salute's "Serve. Honor. Support." Symposium held Wednesday.
"I have seen lives destroyed — no matter how much [survivors] know it wasn't their fault they feel a sense of failure," said Slaughter at the conference held at Nazareth College. "There is something in the culture we need to weed out."
CDS Monarch Warrior Salute is a program that helps veterans with traumatic brain injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seek services to successfully transition back into civilian life. The group chose military sexual assault as the topic of the symposium to offer innovative solutions for professionals who work with veterans and to reduce stigma for survivors.
"This is something that people are afraid to talk about," said Tom Tartaglia, program development manager for the Warrior Salute program. "Rochester isn't afraid to bring it to the forefront."
Slaughter spoke about various bills related to military sexual assault that have passed or are currently in congress, citing a big 2012 success: Victims who report an assault now have the right to request a base transfer, have their case reviewed within 72 hours and can appeal a negative decision, she said.
The symposium featured two panel discussions; one on the symptoms and side-effects of Military Sexual Trauma, and another on evidence-based approaches to the screening and treatment of MST.
Kimberly Kalish, panelist and consulting psychologist for Warrior Salute, said her hope was to explain to practitioners in the audience the importance of screening every single veteran, male and female, for MST.
"Unfortunately it is quite prevalent and very under-reported, but there are very good treatments out there," she said. "We can help them, but the first step is identifying it."
Amberley Roberts, health science specialist for the National Veteran's Crisis Line, attended the symposium to learn the latest best practices.
"We get a lot of calls from victims of MST," she said. "I'm here to get more information on how to best help veterans so we can improve the quality of life for those affected."
Although most of the conference attendees were care providers or advocates, Kalish said symposiums like this mean a lot to veterans as well.
"This sends a message to the veteran community that this is a community that cares about them," she said.