Military sexual trauma survivors have healing options at Dallas VA Center

VA Vet Center counselors are prepared to discuss transition after trauma. Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Department of Veterans Affairs is treating survivors of military sexual trauma (MST).

Jennifer Torres-Christian, readjustment counselor at the Dallas Vet Center, began a new virtual support group for women veterans known as Coping with Military Sexual Trauma. The eight-week MST support group focuses on a new topic each week.

“It’s psychoeducational basics and goes into PTSD 101, pretty much how the brain works with trauma, how that affects your body, then it goes into some mindfulness, some other coping skills and different therapies that might help the women,” said Torres-Christian in a VA Blog post.

One in three female veterans revealed that they have experienced military sexual trauma when screened by their VA provider, according to 2020 VA data. Women veterans of all backgrounds, regardless of rank, age, race, and sexual orientation have experienced MST.

Torres-Christian reached out to other Vet Centers for support and educational material to get the support group going. The program began with a pilot group of two women veterans.

“The veterans that were involved made most every session and they said they really benefited from it,” she said. “They looked forward to our session each week and they got some really good information.”

The advantage of the virtual group for many of the women is the convenience of making the sessions from anywhere they happen to be that week through their phone or computer.

“During COVID, we’ve really realized how important technology is,” she added. “You don’t always have to come into the clinic or doctor’s office for an appointment. You can do it on your lunch break or do it without ever leaving your home. It just makes it more accessible.”

Torres-Christian is an Air Force and Navy veteran. She deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991. She worked as a medical service specialist and is now a licensed professional counselor.

“Eventually, I hope we can keep the support group going weekly,” she said. “We can take the material and mix it in with some other things and really see it grow. I love working with veterans.”

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