#MeToo: Seeking Justice for MST Survivors
In October of 2017, #MeToo, a symbol harnessed by those who have endured sexual assault or harassment, took the world by storm. Through millions of shares on social media, those two words brought a suffocating awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment. Women from all walks of life shared the hashtag alongside the details of their assaults, often including the names of the perpetrators, and a cascade of previously powerful men lost their jobs and their reputations.
Tragically, there is one microcosm of sexual assault and harassment survivors who have remained on the fringes of the #MeToo movement and have been unable to hold their perpetrators responsible: survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (“MST”).
Sexual Harassment and Assault are Pervasive in the Military
MST, defined as “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training,” is pervasive in the military – affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men. Servicemembers who experience MST often develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), depression, and anxiety among other ailments, and find that their work and relationships are severely impacted.
Servicemen and Women Fear #MeToo May Cost Them Their Careers
Despite the pervasiveness of MST, many victims fail to report incidents of harassment or assault because they fear that they will become targets or lose their careers. Those who do speak out about their experience have felt that there is a lack of consequences for sexual predators in the military, and that the military’s promises that it is resolving the problem have taken precedence over their lived experiences. At the Law Offices of Attorney Sean Kendall, we are mortified by this lack of response. We want to make it clear that we stand with all survivors of MST, are dedicated to fighting for them, and applaud the brave military men and women who have shared their stories and brought awareness to the issue.
Winning Benefits for MST Survivors at the Board of Veterans Appeals
One way that I have been able to stand in solidarity with survivors of MST is by helping them to win disability or unemployability benefits based on the secondary symptoms, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression, created by their MST. Sadly, when MST survivors apply for benefits, they are disproportionately denied by their Regional Offices (“RO”). I have been able to work with many veterans to successfully appeal RO decisions and win them the benefits they deserve so that they can focus on the process of healing.
If you are an MST survivor, I urge you to apply for disability benefits immediately. If your claim is denied or you receive an unacceptable rating decision, don’t fret – I am here to help. I will listen to your story, walk you through the steps of your appeal, and stand by you until you are awarded the benefits you deserve. When you are ready to make your appeal, send me a note or give me a call at (877) 629-1712.
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