Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and women after sexual attacks

Healthy Living Report: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Reported by: Carol Williams
Web produced by: Laura Hornsby

If you have sons or daughters in the military, you pray every day that they will be safe.

But it's not just the bombs and gunfire that threaten their lives. Nearly 3,000 women reported last year that they were sexually assaulted while serving in the military, according to the Department of Defense's 2006 annual report on military sexual assault.

And now, the Cincinnati VA is getting national attention for a new program to help them recover.

More than anything, Michelle Nagle wants to give her daughter, Jorden, a happy life.

But a memory from Michelle's military life threatens their happiness.

No, it's not the "war;" Michelle wasn't called to Iraq. What haunts her is the day she was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier.

"I was in the barracks and we were getting ready to watch football and he was making me nervous because he wouldn't sit down, Michelle said. "That's when he threw me on the bed. I'm just begging him to get off me. I guess I was screaming, because my next-door neighbor heard and he came in and got him off me."

The attack traumatized Michelle, especially because it wasn't the first time.
Michellle had been sexually abused as a child, and she thought the military would be a safe place. At six-feet-tall, she challenged herself to meet the men's physical standards.

"If I was as strong as them, they can't hurt me. That didn't work out so well," she said.

Michelle was afraid to tell her superiors about the attack, but she couldn't forget .

After leaving the army, Michelle had nightmares, angry outbursts, depression, vomiting, all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. And she lost her job.
"I'm like--I'm a single mom," she said. "Nowhere to go. Nowhere to live."

Michelle finally found help this summer at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center in Fort Thomas.
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