Sexual assault awareness in April

This is an annual observance where advocates raise awareness about sexual violence and educate the community about the impact of sexual assault and harassment.
Sexual Assault Awareness in April
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 9:53 PM MDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 2:04 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - April is sexual assault awareness month. Which is an annual observance where advocates raise awareness about sexual violence and educate the community about the impact of sexual assault and harassment.

Dana Liesegang is a U.S. Navy Veteran and a survivor of sexual assault in the military.

“What happened to me was swept under the carpet,” said Liesegang. “I was told it was going to be my word against his and that if I took it to court I would lose. But if I took my right to remain silent I would be 100% service connected through the VA.”

Ten years ago she learned she did not have to remain silent. She ended up finding someone she trusted to tell her story to, writing a book and beginning cognitive therapy.

“After you experience a trauma, what your brain does is it tries to prevent another trauma from happening again,” said Military sexual trauma coordinator Michelle Blanchard. “So what will happen in our brain is these shoulda coulda wouldas. If I had only done this, or if I had done that. That’s your brain trying to protect another assault from happening again. But what often happens is then people have difficulty trusting their own judgement.”

Michelle said that first step is to share your story with someone you trust and to know its not your fault. By sharing your story, it can help other people identify and come forward.

“Help and healing is out there but the first step is to know you’re not alone, and by knowing you’re not alone, you can know there’s a community out there where we’re waiting to hear from you and support you,” said Blanchard.

At the VA Center for Post Traumatic Growth they offer different types of therapy. Such as prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy.

They also have a recently launched sexual health and intimacy group for both emotional and physical treatment.

“Sexual trauma impacts people’s interpersonal relationships, their physical health, their mental health, work,” said Blanchard. “It had tentacles in all different areas of their life.”

Michelle has seen victims get their life back with their relationships, be able to go back to work, back to doing the things they love and expand their social circle

“What I have learned is the two things that keep PTSD alive and proud is avoidance and unhealthy thoughts about yourself,” said Liesegang.

To find out more about the sexual trauma programs for veterans at the Western Colorado VA, visit https://www.va.gov/western-colorado-health-care/locations/grand-junction-va-medical-center

For a good resource for civilians to seek mental health services following sexual assault or harassment, visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/co/mesa-county

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