CBS Special Report: Unexpected military epidemic

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by Rielle Creighton

MILWAUKEE -- Many were stunned earlier this week when the Man in charge of preventing sexual assault in the US Air Force was himself arrested and charged with sexual assault. This news comes days after a new report that says sex assault within the ranks of the U.S. military is a growing problem.

Healing from the horror of sexual assault has taken years, even decades for two Wisconsin soldiers who have been living with the pain and shame of what they say happened to them in the military. They are 2 women whose dreams were to serve.
“I always knew I wanted to do, it was something I always dreamed of,” said Betsy Beckner.
 
I was stationed in Iraq, Baghdad, hot zones it was all hot zones,” said another soldier who wanted her identity concealed. 

For both of women though it was a call they felt they had to answer, a call to serve their country, and they were experiences they loved.

“I'd do it all over again, except for I'd stand up for myself this time,” anonymous soldier. 
 
And some memories they wished they could forget.

“The entire time I was in the military I was harassed,” said Beckner.
 
“I just wanted to be like fat and ugly, I wished it upon myself every day, cat calls a smack on the a**, I just started to believe that was just normal,” anonymous soldier
 
They're both now part of a local support group called Veterans Journey Home where women try to heal by sharing their feelings, in this group, as survivors of MST or military sexual trauma.

“I still have some demons that haunt me.”
 
For Betsy Beckner those demons started nearly 30 years ago
when she says she was attacked by 2 junior corpsman while standing guard on base.

“I was assaulted from behind, I was struck from behind, I had bruises you know on my head there was hair missing, my uniform was dirty, my pantyhose was ripped.”

She was brutalized in a vicious gang rape that she would never report.

“I just washed up and went back to work,” said Beckner.
 
“That's where it happened, in my cot,” this soldier describes her first away training mission as military police in Iraq.  She was smothered she says by a higher rank who covered her mouth.

“In my sleeping bag and I couldn’t get out, he became our first sergeant in Iraq, I never had the gall to turn him in.” 
 
According to the Department of Defense latest numbers just released an estimated 26,000 troop’s experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012.

More than 1 in 100 men and 1 in 4 women it’s estimated have been sexually assaulted in the military, and very few report it and even fewer of the alleged rapist will be punished.

According to the Department of Defense of sexual assaults in 2011 only 3,389 were reported and of that number 489 were prosecuted.

At the Women’s VA in Wisconsin Dr. Colleen Heinkel treats many sexual assault victims.

“It's close to 10% with MST.”

Recovery from MST she says can be complex.

“This sense of detachment from others being emotionally numb or not being able to feel close or feel anything,” she says.

At the time the one veteran says she was raped, she was afraid to speak up but  her own her assault she says gave her the courage to speak for others, women she says also raped, often by the same men.
 
“It was commonly the same people, the same people that were raping these girls.”
 
“So nothing ever happened to any of these men?” Asked CBS 58’s Rielle Creighton

“No,” she said.

Although still in pain, both women say they’ve had a break-through, through Vets Journey Home the silence is broken and they’ve discovered healing is possible.

“It changed my life, I'm alive and I wasn't made to feel like a victim,” says Beckner.

For more information about the support group Vets Journey Home visit www.vetsjourneyhome.com

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