NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 12, 2012

Official: Female veterans overlooked

State strives to meet needs of women returning from service

(Continued)

“The commonwealth recognizes that sometimes women veterans return to civilian life with unique challenges. Among these are that more are parents or single parents. Some have experienced sexual trauma. They have unique health care needs,” she said.

“This generation that is serving has been deployed to combat arenas multiple times – more than any generation in the history of our country and we need to take care of them,” Campbell said.

With increased exposure to combat, more women veterans than ever suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There is no front line and no rear any more on the modern battlefield,” Campbell said.

“Wherever you are on that battlefield, it’s pretty constant what you’re exposed to. It applies to both men and women,” she said.

‘A lot of sexual trauma’

Sexual trauma — which includes sexual abuse and sexual harassment — has been a major concern of federal officials in recent years.

As many as one out of three women leaving military service have reported being the victim of some form of sexual abuse. U.S. Defense Department officials estimate there were 9,000 sexual attacks on women in the military last year, but that only 3,191 cases were actually reported.

Women are reluctant to report sex abuse, fearing possible retaliation by their superior male officers. The percentage of these cases being prosecuted has been low, further discouraging women from reporting the abuse.

“There’s been a lot of sexual trauma,” said Susan A. Piazza, 59, of Lawrence, a U.S. Navy veteran during the Vietnam War era.

“During the past several years, there have been numerous high-ranking officers who have been let go because of sexual aggression toward their female subordinates. When it happens to a woman, she feels stupid that it happened,” said Piazza, a longtime officer of the Queen City Chapter #2 of the Disabled American Veterans, which several communities throughout the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire.

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