For the last several months, I have been working with a partner to conduct a moral injury study for women veterans. (We are still looking for participants. If you are a female veteran and experienced something while serving that caused inner conflict or went against your moral values, consider signing up: https://chaplainconsultants.com/projects/). Although military sexual trauma is not synonymous with moral injury, rape was a common experience among the women I interviewed. That is very disturbing. What is even more disturbing is that 30 years later, that deep wounding is every bit as sore and fresh as it was when it first happened.
While the men who committed these crimes went unpunished, the women who were their victims spent the rest of their lives in pain. Some of them cannot have the children they desperately wanted due to the physical damage they suffered. Others lost their ability to have an intimate relationship with another person. One woman’s family members disowned her when they found out that she reported the rape to authorities.
It is hard for me to hear these stories. As a caregiver, I want to believe that anything can be healed. But after many years of therapy, some women have experienced little in the way of recovery. True, they are no longer suicidal, but life is not what others would consider normal.
That is not to say that these women are completely powerless. Many have pursued education as a means of taking back their power. Some are heavily involved in advocacy and social change programs. These survivors want to take their pain and use it to help others. I have profound respect for that.
I cannot give up on the healing process or on these survivors. They have come too far. They have suffered too much for me to stop trying. But I cannot do it alone. More caregivers, especially men, need to come to their aid. Women continue to fight for their freedom from oppression and victimization, but until more male leaders, preachers, and support providers take up their cause, more tragedies will occur.
One way we are taking on the problem is through the Women Veterans and Clergy Conferences, that will be held in Richmond, VA and Charleson, SC. These meetings will gather women veterans, clergy and caregivers from a wide variety of religious and spiritual perspectives, both men and women, to discuss ways of bringing about change and healing. One important aspect of the events will be veteran storytelling. From behind a protective screen, women will tell their stories so that attendees can get a true sense of how big the problem really is and get motivated to work for change. Also, women told me that voicing their stories was cathartic for them.
This is not an attempt to commercialize a problem. The conferences are free to attend and are merely a starting point to find new ways to collaborate and build relationships between women veterans and support providers. To find out more, go to: https://chaplainconsultants.com/products-and-services/wvc-conference/.
Dr. Daniel Roberts is an author, consultant, and teacher who conducts world-class education and research in military chaplaincy. He has over 15 years of experience in providing emotional and spiritual support to the men and women in the armed forces. Daniel also provides training and mentorship to thousands of military chaplains through conferences, classroom instruction, and one-on-one coaching. His students include chaplains from the US Army, Air Force, and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Dr. Roberts also helped the CAF develop military doctrine for the deployment of chaplains as religious advisers.