Jessica Coulter is one of the woman veteran of the Air Force but was never wounded in combat. So she didn’t feel worthy of turning to the Veterans Affairs hospital for a handout. But eventually, it got to the point where she could no longer buy food for herself and her two children. She realized that it was time to ask for help.
A Veteran Affairs social worker heard her story –a single mother, unable to find a steady job dealing with stress and anxiety. She was handed a Wal-Mart gift card from Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to help buy food.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I had no money, no child support and here they were wanting to help me.”
The help from the WWP in 2010 began with a gift card,. Then it grew into a way for Jessica to understand herself and her struggles. It helped her realize how a sexual assault in 2000 that she never reported was really affecting her daily life.
The assault happened one year after joining the Air Force, when Jessica and her friends at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois threw a barbecue to celebrate the weekend.
Jessica says a friend, who was a military police officer, sexually assaulted her in her barracks room. It brought on a flood of guilt, confusion and resentment.
She wanted to tell her supervisor, but after witnessing the treatment of other sexual assault victims, it didn’t seem possible.
“I felt like I couldn’t tell him what happened, because he’d say it was my fault,” Jessica says. “There were a lot of accusations of sexual assault at the time, and you’d hear stories of the treatment of the women. I didn’t see a way around it.”
Deployments and Trauma
Despite the trauma, Jessica completed one overseas deployment to Saudi Arabia in 2000, married in 2001, and gave birth to two sons. In the end, She moved into the reserves in 2007 and left the military in 2009.
The stress from a frequent-deployment tempo and Jessica’s anxiety from her untreated trauma led to separation and ultimately divorce from her husband.
When she moved back to her hometown of Newport, Rhode Island, Jessica struggled with confusion, anxiety, and difficulty keeping a job. Without steady income, she came close to homelessness. (continue reading)
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