Support men who experience sexual trauma

This letter responds to the article “Breaking the Silence” [Dec. 18 Xpress] regarding sexual violence experienced by men. I applaud the comments made by John Langlois, who courageously speaks out against this heinous crime that affects both women and men. This issue has been raised in the military and was the subject of a Dec. 14 report in The Baltimore Sun. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 1 in 100 men who use the VA report that they have experienced military sexual trauma (MST), which also includes repeated, threatening acts of sexual harassment as defined by the VA.

I suspect that the published rates of MST are much higher since a large number of male (and female) veterans do not use VA services. Given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report that 1 in 6 men experience sexual abuse before age 18, I believe that many more military servicemen (and women) have been victimized. However, due to the military’s warrior mentality, men will often not report their experience due to legitimate fears of reprisal and stigmatization.

Since the experience of MST can result in depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, employment issues and attempted suicide, this is indeed a serious public safety and public health issue that should be discussed openly in order to create a safe environment where women and men feel comfortable seeking help essential to healing and well-being.

— Celia Szelwach
Asheville

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