Female Veterans Seek Treatment for Sexual Assaults

Though she left the Navy 20 years ago, Cortazzo, now 44, said she still has flashbacks of those attacks, and has found the VA's programs wanting in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.

"Three months ago, I started having flashbacks and went to the VA. I asked them for group therapy, but they don't have anything for women that have gone through this. They say there isn't a need," she said.

Cortazzo added that when she would go to the VA for therapy, she was often treated by inexperienced psychology interns, and not trained psychiatrists. She said she thinks often about the master chief who extorted sex from her for years, and how it has "impacted the relationship with my husbands, and my self-esteem."

Twenty years later, Cortazzo still regrets not reporting the incidents.

"There is a lot of second guessing. Why didn't I report it? I felt weak because I didn't do anything about it. For a long time, I thought I was a bad person," she said.

Anita Sanchez, director of communications for the Miles Foundation, an organization that advocates for sexually assaulted female veterans, said the VA needs more experienced personnel and inpatient facilities like the one planned for New Jersey.

She said a number of states have implemented their own programs to treat women who have been traumatized, because, despite congressional directive, the VA and Defense Department have been slow to act.

"We exist because the federal government hasn't done enough," Sanchez said. "The Senate Armed Services has recognized there are not enough services available, and the VA has been authorized since the early 1990s to create sexual trauma counseling centers, but the Defense Department is only now calling for proposals."

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