BY LUCY WESTCOTT
“The culture of the military is about sucking it up. It’s not about you, it’s about the mission. It’s about life and death. They have to be ready for a life or death situation, and they have to put their unit, their team, ahead of themselves,” says Huckabee.
Veteran Laly Cholak is seen on Capitol Hill in a still from the new documentary "After Fire."Like everyone who deals with trauma, women veterans who return to the U.S. after serving in the military have their own ways of healing.
AFTER FIRE/BRITTANY HUCKABEE
For some, it’s small bottles of refrigerated wine, talking with friends and family or keeping their experiences locked inside. For others, like Valerie Sullivan, the focus of the new documentary After Fire, it’s spending six hard months training for a bodybuilding competition. After Fire, directed by Brittany Huckabee, follows women veterans based in San Antonio who survived military sexual trauma. All are actively involved in helping veterans, whether it’s fellow MST survivors or lobbying with older male veterans on Capitol Hill.
Women are the fastest-growing group of military veterans, and one in every five new military recruits is a woman. Yet 4.3 percent of active-duty women say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014. That number is likely higher due to fears about reporting incidents and the retaliation that so often follows; a December 2014 report found that the estimated number of rape and violent sexual assaults experienced by women in the military was higher than previously thought. Around 90 percent of female vets don’t use Veterans Affairs Department health care, according to the film.
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