Healing the Wounds of the Invisible War

Without the will and outrage of others, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) would still continue to be overlooked.
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Since The Invisible War first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, my life has changed in a way that was completely unforeseen and unexpected.

For one, people who know nothing about me -- complete strangers -- stepped up to take care of my medical situation when the Veterans Affairs Administration wouldn't. In the last year I've had procedures done to correct my bite, which was previously causing my muscles to spasm, even in a resting position. I've received my final upper arch of veneers and am a week away from my bottom arch being finished as well. I also receive nerve block injections every three weeks. While it might sound painful, these are amazing because they help me eat real food. With these treatments, I'm not confined to the soft diet that limited me for so long. My doctor who gives me the injections is also looking into arthroscopic options for the joint. He recently advised that, "The only way to fix the anatomic defect would be to break and fix your jaw. This is risky. And frankly I don't know anyone who would be able to complete it without risk. I don't think it is worth the risk to try to repair the defect and it can do more damage".

I was upset to learn that the damage in my face was too far gone for the surgery I was supposed to receive in 2006, but after seven years without treatment I honestly thought the rest of my life would be spent in pain. Every night I thank God for my supporters and generous donors. I'm sure they understand how helping monetarily to fix the damage is a big step in my case, but how their help has given me psychologically support as well is something they could never, ever imagine. My pain is a constant reminder of what happened to me, and because of the support I've received form my donors, I will get a chance to maybe have a day without it that pain -- that constant reminder of what happened. With that they have granted me the hope that ceased to exist before. I am forever indebted to them.

Secondly, as I read my paragraph above, I realize that I can't really say "who know nothing about me," because in all actuality anyone who has watched the documentary knows everything about me. That was very overwhelming at first, but the ease came from the flooding of emails from other survivors who said that my story told their story. I even met a woman at a screening in Yellow Springs, Ohio who stood up in front of the entire audience during the Q and A and said she had just told her story for the first time in 19 years, and that seeing The Invisible War gave her the power to forgive herself. It is healing for me to know that sharing my story has given others their voice and the knowledge that they are not alone. The outpouring of support following the film has filled me with the strength to keep going and has once again given my life purpose. I am grateful for that. And because of that, for the first time in my life I no longer have to feel the blame, embarrassment and shame of being raped. The military made me believe that if I would have protected my body better, he wouldn't have entered it. I am sad to have been a victim, but fortunate to consider myself a survivor of our military's invisible war.

Finally, without the will and outrage of others, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) would still continue to be overlooked. With that, I want to say "thank-you" to the people reading this who have offered MST victims support -- be it directly or indirectly be helping to raise awareness of this awful issue. Thank you to Ms. Susan Burke for your bravery, demanding change and striving to seek justice for MST victims. Thank you to my donors for your unconditional generosity, compassion, and support. To Congresswoman Speier for your continued efforts in the halls of Congress and for pushing for the passage of the STOP Act H.R.3435. To Congressman Turner for your efforts in my case, as well as in Congress and your unwavering dedication to veterans. To my doctors -- Dr. Amol Soin of the Ohio Pain Clinic in Dayton, OH your constant, time, care and attention to help a veteran in need, and of course to Dr. Thomas Hedge as well. I couldn't have made it here without the strength I received from my mother, and the understanding that Ioan, Kathryn, and Iustina Cioca granted me. To my husband, Robert McDonald: thank you for standing with me, loving me unconditionally and without hesitation. And to my children, yes plural, Rob and I welcomed a baby boy in May. Without their love I wouldn't have an anchor to stay on this earth. Last but not least, Mr. Kirby Dick and Miss Amy Ziering for crying with me, hugging me, but most of all, making me, this issue and other survivors NOT INVISIBLE.

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