As we continue through her article, "Ten Things You Should Know About Today's Student Veteran," Alison Lighthall discusses many different challenges students veterans might face in today's classroom, and offers some perspective, not only from her point of view as a nurse and medical behavioral health consultant, but also as a female veteran.
Fifteen percent of America's current military is made up of females, and according to the Veterans Administration, 22% of females have experienced a sexual assault during their time in service. Ms. Lighthall notes that when assault happens to a female serving in the military, she "experiences it as incest, as this is coming from her military family," and is often hesitant to report it for fear it could damage the "family" unity.
Sometimes, when she returns home and begins a new chapter as a student, she begins to process and unravel the event, and needs to talk to professional counselors who will be able to help her. The school can follow specific guidelines for referring female student vets, and help her gain access to the basic resources on campus, as well as offerings from the VA.
According to the VA, female veterans are four times more likely than their male counterparts to experience homelessness. The harassment, assaults, or other harmful incidents they may encounter while serving are far too often kept quiet. Women are warriors, and they see themselves as tough, often having to prove themselves to their fellow male soldiers, sailors, or airmen. The damage for female veterans is long-lasting, as shown by the statistic above. The impact of any assault that does not get treatment has life-long affects, and when female veterans are unable to stay in school because they have not received the help they need, we see the ramifications can last a lifetime.
There are organizations who are doing a large amount of good for female veterans, asking them to not only share their stories or heroism, but take a stand to reverse female homelessness and raise awareness of workplace violence in the military. In particular, Aurora has been proud to watch one of our own internship partners, Denyse Gordon of CACI, become the first Ms. Veteran America in 2012 through an organization called Final Salute. Denyse used her crown to not only increase awareness of the problems facing female veterans, but also to share her story and inspire women to continue with their education after the military. Denyse is now the Senior Manager of Veteran Support & Inclusion at CACI, and she is an inspiration to many female veterans who experienced trauma in the military and was able to overcome.