Mental health - offering help to sexual assault victims

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rebecca R. Imwalle
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
In the capable hands of Ellsworth's mental health practitioners, many Airmen have overcome some of life's greatest challenges. More recently though, the clinic has focused its efforts on an ongoing problem, which has a real impact on operations across the Air Force.

"Many victims of sexual assault have difficulty returning to their work centers after an attack," said Ellen Stevens, 28th Medical Operations Squadron clinical social worker. "This is partially due to the fact that victims of violence have a high risk factor for developing mental illnesses."

Stevens explained that when a victim first comes into the clinic, she works with them to determine the best treatment.

"People respond differently based on their medical history, what strengths they have, the support system they have, and what stressors they have experienced before being sexually assaulted," Stevens said.

Lt. Col. Scott Krebs, 28th MDOS flight commander, said that the treatment the clinic provides is designed to help victims recover and move on with their lives following a traumatic event.

"We utilize a variety of treatments depending on the symptoms present and what the victim might be willing to participate in," Krebs said. "Both medications and therapy have proven to be helpful."

The clinic also offers individual counseling and therapy sessions, which often include a spouse or family member that is brought in to help generate ideas about how to support the victim.

"It's encouraging to see our leadership taking this matter very seriously and promoting collaboration between mental health and other sources of support, such as victim advocates and chaplains," said Stevens. "Getting help may prevent victims from developing mental health problems that can impact their careers and relationships later."

Krebs added that he views sexual assault victims like other victims of traumatic experiences.

"It can be emotionally challenging, but ultimately it is rewarding to know we've helped someone move forward," he emphasized.

To report sexual assault, call the SAPR Office at (605) 385-5233, or the 24/7 reporting line at (605) 385-SARC (7272).

For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Mental Health Clinic, call (605) 385-6700.