'They're not alone': VA hospital honors survivors of military sexual trauma with flag display

’They’re not alone’: VA hospital honors survivors of military sexual trauma with flag display

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Volunteers planted 1,262 blue flags in the shape of a ribbon on the Zablocki VA Medical Center lawn in honor of veterans who reported experiencing military sexual trauma (MST).

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

"I think that it exists more than most people would be aware of," Andrea Knowlton, the IPV assistance program coordinator, said. 

About one in five women and one in 100 men have reported sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment while on active duty, according to Knowlton. 

"That can come from another service person as a perpetrator. It could be an interment partner. It could be a stranger. It just has to have happened while they were serving on military active duty," MST Coordinator Todd Witt said. 

VA patients are screened for MST at each appointment. It's a quick, two-question survey.

"If the answer is yes to either of those questions, than it is a positive screen for MST," Witt said.

Treatment for physical and mental conditions as a result of MST may be free, even if a veteran doesn't qualify for VA care. 

"In getting treatment for this kind of thing, (a survivor) can have improvement of their overall health," Knowlton said. 

Many veterans don't know they're eligible. MST coordinators want survivors to know help is waiting for them.

"I'm hoping that also veterans who are coming through the VA system will understand that they're not alone," Witt said. 

The flag display will be up until April 29.

The VA hospital will also honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month on the last Wednesday of April by wearing denim with buttons that say "Ask me why I'm wearing denim."

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