I just wanted some feedback on my slow battle with the VA. I was in an inpatient program that was supposed to help me on a path to healing from all that's happened to me, the Center for Sexual Trauma Services(CSTS). I was severely mistreated and repeatedly assaulted by another "patient" who revealed his predatory history both verbally and in action. This was made clear within a week or so into the 7 week program. The staff was neglectful to their responsibilities which were already stated in their rules and patient contracts. If anyone knows what else I can do dealing with the VA let me know. This is the second letter that I have sent in complaint after returning home:
This letter again is in response to my stay in the CSTS program at the VA Hospital in Bay Pines, FL. I have received a reply but am very unsettled with the actions taken. I do see that time and effort has been taken into account in responding to my concerns but still feel as though I have been sent the infamous “thank you for your input” letter. There are too many things wrong with what happened in this program and so little answers. The change mentioned is by far not enough nor does it address the issues. During my stay “acting out” was the excuse for their toleration and retention of this individual in their “care“. What needs to be known is that when referring to abused individuals “acting out” is not victimizing others and does not include perpetration or assault. That term is used differently when addressing a predator versus a victim of abuse. For example: rape is not acting out unless you are talking specifically about the mentality of a rapist, it is still a criminal act and does not excuse the crime. If you say that the same term applies to someone like me you are comparing me to the same likeness of one of my abusers which is infallibly wrong.
I would hope that you agree that if someone is found to have been a danger, are a danger, or expresses that they have been or will become a danger that there is a legal responsibility to uphold safety by those appointed. Whether or not that someone was not caught or convicted does not take away that it is a significant part of their history and is a liability to others. The staff proved time and again that they were not responsible with their already approved policy statements. To which this change in wording does nothing to address their lack of accountability or tackle the original problem of them placing a “person who is currently dangerous” in this program and allowing his behavior to continue. I did not give them the power to make that decision for me, I gave them my trust that they would provide a safe environment in an attempt to help me heal, not to be exploited. This person was a complete threat to which they the staff only relied on “He can’t do anything because it would be his third strike… he’d get life in prison”, as comforting words. End result being everything that he was able to get away with at my expense. I was told that I could not get the police or anyone else of authority involved multiple times. All of this repeatedly leading to both my patient rights and human rights being violated and ignored.
That is why this both angers and sets a fear in me that someone else has had or will have my experience within the care of the VA. It was most certainly not in my best interest to be terrorized and assaulted continually throughout my stay. The reply that I received only tries to permit these events to happen again to which I can not allow. Most people who go there for CSTS, go out of almost desperation, to which it is already hard to endure through that kind of therapy, across country, alone and uncertain of the outcome. That being said, I can’t express how difficult it has been to receive help outside the VA through the obstacles of requesting fee basis and individually seeking other avenues to which CSTS has been my only option. My trip to Florida being a major set back with the cost, energy, time wasted, burden on my support system, and further trauma received.
Concerning the future of the CSTS program, it is fine if the VA wants to step in to try to help veterans with predatory sexual problems. It is not alright for them to place people like “them” with those who were victimized, especially without knowledge and consent by all involved. There needs to be disclosure of people who are a possible threat for the well-being of those in the program. The participation of people with those issues should then also be decided by the other applicants. We all arrive knowing that things have been done to each person not knowing detail but also not anticipating that they have hurt others. Once a person has done things to harm another they are no longer in that classification. They are a different kind of person and you need to understand that they have different needs. If you really seek to help them their therapy should be aimed toward their problems and not include them as the same identity.
In an attempt to give a more comprehensible example… You would not put a child molester with children who were molested to see if it would help them heal. It is inconceivable and careless to put a child back in a role where someone “gets off” using them in any way, physically or mentally. A predator has many ways of using their victims, it does not take actual penetration to make it a crime, by then it is already too late. It would not matter if that said pedophile was supervised or did not hurt any of them at that moment, it does not mean that he/she did not get any internal gratification. So then, why would you do that same thing with a person who was molested or victimized? How is that therapeutically beneficial for a patient? They had no right to use me as an experimental subject especially without my consent. This is what took place during “treatment” except for that this person did hurt others and that he did hurt me, seemingly with the consent of the staff.
In closing, priority should be given to those veterans who were victimized, this was the original vision of the CSTS program. So it should be that if an individual with a predatory or perpetrating history is a concern to any of the patients scheduled to attend, that that individual’s admittance be postponed until either there is a cohort that accepts them or consists of others like them. It is not discriminatory and does not cross the boundary of confidentiality being that no one would know details or the individual prior to being in the program. This is an ethical action and a responsibility to the veterans who go there to have that safe environment to help develop a path toward healing. Again, I will not accept being considered collateral damage. Something of value needs to come from this, this modification in wording does not address the problem.
The statistics? 1 in 4, 1 in 6?
...then there's me the imaginary number