Monday, January 23, 2012

PTSD and sexaul assault

Starting with PTSD and, for background, we'll quote from a recent federal court ruling (National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Inc. v Secretary of Veterans Affairs),"The rule at issue here concerns PTSD. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition ("DSM-IV"), classifies PTSD as an anxiety disorder. A person may develop PTSD after exposure to a stress inducing event, such as threatened death or serious injury. Persons suffering from PTSD reexperience the traumatic event in several ways, including nightmares, flashbacks, and physiological or psychological reactions to stimuli reminiscent of the damaging experience. As a result, those suffering from PTSD may remove themselves from the world and those around them in an effort to avoid that which could trigger a response. Tragically, an estimated ten to thirty percent of United States Armed Services personnel will develop PTSD within a year of leaving combat. See Nat'l Council on Disability, Invisible Wounds: Serving Service Members and Veterans with PTSD and TBI 2-3 (Mar. 4, 2009), available at ("Invisible Wounds"). The United States has deployed over 1.6 million troops in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Id. at 8. Those conflicts have been characterized by guerilla warfare tactics and the inherent uncertainty that comes with it. Moreover, many troops have served multiple tours of duty with little respite in between. It is no surprise that these conditions are particularly likely to lead to increased incidences of PTSD. See id. at 21-23. The troops who return home and develop PTSD are often faced with more than reliving the horrors of war. Veterans with PTSD suffer from more chronic conditions and have shorter life spans than veterans without PTSD. PTSD has also been linked to higher divorce rates and joblessness. Id. at 18."

Addressing mental trauma deriving from the wars is not easy when, just noting a few extreme cases, leads to an attack (ask CNN or the Christian Science Monitor) but the reality is that those cases do exist. They are not typical of those suffering from PTSD, but they are actual events. Braving her way into this terrain, Julie Watson (AP) examines trauma among veterans with a special emphasis on the Marines and her article concludes with:

Paul Sullivan, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, said the military only started administering medical exams of service members before and after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 to identify problems early so they can be treated more effectively and less expensively.
"It's good their implementing it now, yes; however, what's the military going to do with all of the veterans the military didn't examine?" he asked. "That's the problem."

Watson offers a very even handed look. John Lasker (Truthdig) reports on Spc Gena Smith who is an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD and dealt with sexism, harassment and assault:

At times the abuse became physical and violent. She says that sometimes her crotch was grabbed and that several times the sexual violation was terrifyingly worse: She says she was raped by men whom she described as junior enlisted infantry.
[. . .]

"This matter [sexual assault] is a laughing stock among men in the military,” says Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel who quit the State Department in protest of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has since dedicated herself to the struggle against rape in the military. "It's a joke for the guys because they know they'll never get prosecuted. The atmosphere in the military is you know you can get away with it."
Here are the Defense Department's own numbers: It estimates that 19,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred within the armed services in 2010 but that only 13.5 percent of those were reported, because victims in some cases either feared retaliation from commanding officers or believed nothing would come of a report.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta became the first sitting US Secretary of Defense to call a press conference on sexual assault that was not in response to an immediate incident (such as Tailhook). In doing so, he became the first Secretary of Defense to treat the issue seriously. He concluded his opening statements with this, "Let me close by speaking directly to the victims of sexual assault in this department. I deeply regret that such crimes occur in the US military. And I will do all I can to prevent these sexual assaults from occurring in the Department of Defense. I'm committed to providing you the support and resources you need and to taking whatever steps are necessary to keep what happened to you from happening to others. The United States military has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. And we will hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable. I expect everybody in this department to live up to the high standards that we have set and to treat each other with dignity and respect. In a military force, where the promise is to help each other in battle and to leave nobody behind, that promise must begin by honoring the dignity of every person on or off the battlefield."

PTSD effects different people differently. Therefore there is a wide assortment of treatments -- some of which will work for some, some of which won't. In addition to therapy and peer-to-peer groups, creative writing classes such as those run by novelist and poet Maxine Hong Kingston may assist some. (Maxine's workshop for veterans and families produced the book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. You can read Maxine's intro to the collection here. Gated Grief author Leila Levinson has a list of writing programs for veterans here.) Some may benefit from a variety of programs. Less intensive than Maxine's writing workshops is a songwriting camp, Colleen O'Connor (Denver Post -- text and video) reports on the Songwriting Camp for Veterans in Colorado Spring:

The music camp is a new program from LifeQuest Transitions, a Colorado Springs nonprofit that helps wounded veterans transition from the military to civilian life. Founder CW Conner came up with the idea of the camp after a presentation to the Colorado Springs Executives Association, he said, attended by about a dozen business leaders.
"I asked how many of their companies had HR (human resources) solutions for post-traumatic stress syndrome or for traumatic brain injury. Zero," he said. "We're in the mecca of a military town, and we've not thought about what to put together for military vets whom we've asked to be at war for 10 years."

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "State of the Union" went up last night. This week on Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal, Guantanamo Prison, the murder of Iranian scientists, Occupy Chicago Tribune lawsuit, Bradley Manning, the whistle blower site Honest Appalachi (with Jimmy Tobias as guest) and more. (No link to Honest Appalachi because -- listen to the broadcast -- you need to install something on your computer first to interact with the site.)

this is where we take our stand

David Zeiger directed the award winning documentary Sir! No Sir! about resistance within the ranks during Vietnam. His new documentary is This Is Where We Take Our Stand about the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. Iraq Veterans Against the Wars notes a benefit screening ($15 a ticket) in NYC on February 1st, 7:00 pm, at the IFC Center and:

The film will also air on PBS around the country, thanks to generous support from the National Educational Television Association. Due to the controversial nature of the film, many local PBS stations will relegate 'This is Where We Take Our Stand' to their smaller and less widely available affiliates. We urge you to contact your local PBS station and encourage them to air the film on their major channel.

The movie's NYC debut isn't the only veterans events in February. Next month is also the first ever scientific symposium on Burn Pits:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

The e-mail address for this site is

law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner