Regulators say sexually traumatized veterans refuse to accept peer support counseling

The Canadian Veterans Affairs Ombudsman said in a tough new report that a policy of the Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs is to deny sexual trauma survivors in the military the plan to obtain peer support and force them to seek help elsewhere.

Nishika Jardine said this is an unfair practice that must be ended.

“This is a systemic issue that affects many veterans and absolutely needs our attention,” Jardine told CBC News.

Before Jardine was appointed last fall, the Office of the Ombudsman began investigating a complaint made by a sexual assault survivor who had received peer support consultations through the Operating Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program, which was jointly managed by the Ministry of State. Department of National Defense (DND) and Veterans Affairs.

The report stated that once the complainant disclosed that she was a victim of sexual misconduct, the project coordinator told her to seek help from DND’s Sexual Misconduct Response Center (SMRC) and community support (such as the Rape Crisis Center).

“However, SMRC is not authorized to provide services to veterans. Many have experienced [military sexual trauma] It shows that the consultants of the rape crisis center lack understanding of military culture,” said the report released today.

In response to specific complaints, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs told Jardine’s investigators that the reason for this policy was that most peer support coordinators lacked experience in handling sexual assault survivors.

Peer support has been shown to help victims with post-traumatic stress disorder, and US veteran researchers have long recognized the need for separate treatment for survivors of sexual assault in the military.

The advocacy group It’s Not Just 700 (formerly It’s Just 700) took the lead in filing a class action lawsuit against victims of sexual misconduct in the military. Since 2016, it has been lobbying for peer support and counselling services that recognize the unique needs of its clients and face sexuality. violence.

Their request fell on deaf ears until the recent federal budget promised to establish such a plan.

After the report was released, Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs, stated that the government is committed to taking action.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay answered a question in the Ottawa House of Commons on Monday, February 3, 2020. (Adrian Wilder/Canada Press)

“My department recognizes that we must take more measures to address the gap in peer support for veterans who have experienced military trauma. Our plan to resolve this problem is consistent with your office’s recommendations,” Macaulay told Jardines Said in his written reply.

MacAulay added that a pilot program is being established with DND.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ own plans indicate that one of the obstacles that needs to be addressed is the lack of “professional knowledge and resources” to meet the needs of individuals who have suffered sexual trauma while wearing uniforms.

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