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Letter: Treat military sex assault victims

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand shakes hands with Chief of

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand shakes hands with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno following testimony with U.S. military leaders before the Senate Armed Services Committee on pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military. (June 4, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

I am writing in response to "She won't back down" [News, June 30]. I also watched "The Invisible War," the 2012 documentary about rape in the military. What struck me, aside from the stunning profiles of military sexual assault victims receiving more abuse than justice, was that no one in the film seemed to get treatment for the post-traumatic stress disorder they were clearly suffering from.

It is heartbreaking to read about the 26,000 people in the armed forces reporting allegations of sexual assault. How many have not reported? Or should we ask how many of the military suicides were victims of unreported sexual trauma?

A majority of these victims will never get the appropriate help to remit the suffering that never leaves except with the correct treatment. The reason is simple: Most do not realize they have a treatable condition. Second, even if they reach a treatment provider, patients are not informed about how to describe their trauma symptoms and so will be misdiagnosed and mistreated, beginning a lifelong cycle of inpatient/outpatient admissions and discharges, unnecessary medications and diagnostic labels by the dozen.

Why? When we suffer from trauma, we develop ways to avoid the horrible pain attached to the events. The different forms of avoidance can manifest as symptoms that belong to different illnesses.

Treatment exists and is extremely effective.

Herb Cohen, Woodbury

Editor's note: The writer is the co-chair of the Long Island Committee on Sexual Abuse and Family Violence, a coalition of mental health agencies and practitioners.