GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Nationwide, VA Medical Centers have launched a campaign to fight harassment in all forms. This is significant, especially when sexual assault reporting has increased almost 90% within the Department of Defense since FY 2012. Some of those uncomfortable feelings might remain in many veterans and VA Medical Centers want them to feel comfortable enough to talk about any of that, whether it was in the past or present.
The goal of the campaign is to get both employees and patients talking about harassment. "Get people to talk about it, to bring it up, the icebreaker," said Damon Price, the prosthetics purchasing agent and preventative ethics coordinator for the Grand Junction VA Medical Center.
The Women Veterans Program Manager Pamela Schultz said "it's only 10% women veterans, and there's 90% men." Schultz said this campaign is very important for women veterans. "I think as a female we've all been harassed at some point. Be it on a street, in school when we were younger, in our workplace, I think it happens without people even knowing," said Schultz.
However, harassment can happen to anyone and can come in many forms. "Harassment can take on many different forms, it can be verbal, it can be visual, it can be physical," said Schultz.
This campaign reaches over 700 employees at the medical center. "The VA is one of the largest employers in Mesa County, we feel it's very important to step out first and take charge of the harassment piece," said Schultz.
They hope other large employers will partake in a similar program. "Follow our lead and stand up with us," said Price.
The campaign hopes to make the hospital and our community more comfortable. "Think about what we're saying, think about what we're doing, so that we would treat everyone with respect and dignity," said Schultz.
The program will include things called Lunch Learns, which are education sessions that last for around 30 minutes over lunch. They will also follow up every six months with additional education for their staff, covering specific topics.
Those at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center said around 1/3 of all their employees are veterans, which is higher than the national average for the hospitals.