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Sister in Arms Center in the News

Sisters in Arms Center opens in Augusta for struggling female veterans

Excerpt from News 8 WMTV

Watch the entire newscast HERE

“There’s eight rooms and so we provide housing and support for women veterans and their children,” said Rebecca Cornell du Houx, the executive director of the “Sisters in Arms Center.”

A veteran herself, Cornell du Houx is a member of the Maine National Guard and a licensed clinical social worker. She has made it her mission to help other female veterans who have fallen through the cracks, who need mental health services, legal advice, safe shelter or a warm meal.

A completely volunteer position, Cornell du Houx, 36, said funding the nonprofit is completely sporadic. She is hoping by raising visibly, funds will come to help pay for the upkeep of the large home and the work that is being done inside. Cornell du Houx is taking on a monumental task trying to resurrect what was the “Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope.”

“It’s any woman veteran who doesn’t have a place to go,” she said. Cornell du Houx said it is so much more than a homeless shelter for women veterans.

“I just think it’s incredibly important to have people, women veterans come together and having shared experiences like be able to talk about their shared experiences while they were serving because it just decreases the isolation increases their confidence and knowledge that if something happens, they aren’t the only ones,” said Cornell du Houx.

Sexual assault survivors push for external review of Maine National Guard

Excerpt from Maine Public Radio, March 25, 2022

Aleigh Suffern, who served in the Maine National Guard for 13 years before she retired this earlier year, said she received unwanted attention from a non-commissioned officer.

Listen to the entire story HERE.

“I tried reporting it up my chain of command, and I would get responses like, ‘Oh that’s just how he is, just ignore him,’ or, ‘Well it’s because you’re pretty.’ It seemed to always be my fault,” she said. “It’s my fault that I’m receiving this attention that I didn’t want.”

Suffern says her performance in the guard was affected, and she became depressed and tried to seek help. She said she was forced to give up tuition assistance and lost military benefits.

Other women have similar stories. One survivor says she was denied a job opportunity because Guard leadership saw her as a “walking sexual harassment case.” Others say they’ve struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts. Two survivors who testified have transferred to the Guard in other states because of their experiences in Maine.

Rebecca Cornell du Houx, a commissioned officer in the Maine National Guard, runs non-profit support group for former women service members. She believes an independent investigation of the Maine National Guard is essential, because the organization is too small and can’t be trusted to police itself.

“Everybody knows everybody, and the higher ranking you are, the more people you know and the more power you have,” she said. “If you commit assault or just are a toxic leader, there’s less ability for any survivor to speak out in that circumstance.”

Female Maine Army National Guard members say act now to address and prevent sexual trauma in the Guard with LD 2029

Excerpt from Maine Insights, April 2, 2022

During the public hearing for LD 2029, An Act to Enhance the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Maine National Guard, on March 25th, several service members who survived sexual trauma in the Maine National Guard testified in support of the bill.

Each survivor’s testimony was riveting, emotional and an act of courage.

“We are depending on the VLA committee to continue with oversight.  This problem goes deep into the Guard, we are only the survivors who are willing to share our stories, but countless have reached out to thank us for speaking out because they were too afraid too. I plan to continue advocating through an organization that helps women veterans. I am hopeful that this is the start to meaningful change,” said Aleigh Suffern, former SGT MEARNG, Masters in Human Development, Board President Sisters in Arms Center.

Read the full article here and on our website here.

In the wake of hearings, Maine soldiers finally have hope for reform at national guard

Excerpt form the Bangor Daily News, April 2, 2022

Now, as state leaders are poised to enact reforms, survivors for the first time are cautiously hopeful about the future of the guard, but said that leaders still have a lot of work to do to build back soldiers’ trust.

“We’ve had a major breakthrough,” said Aleigh Suffern, a former sergeant who has spoken up about how a sexual assault cut short her promising military career, “but there is a long road ahead.”

That breakthrough underscores the power of the spotlight to create change in institutions that have long resisted it, survivors said. That’s especially true in a small state like Maine, where tight-knit communities can hamper effective oversight, and, within an institution like the National Guard, which few understand from the outside and rarely receives attention from politicians.

“A system should not be that enclosed,” said First Lt. Rebecca Cornell du Houx, who is also a clinical social worker.

Read the full article here, of view the PDF here.

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Maine female soldiers form support group for sexual trauma survivors, December 1, 2021

Two members of the Maine Army National Guard are starting a support group for female veterans who have endured sexual assault and harassment. The group’s first meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Augusta, a nonprofit providing transitional housing to female veterans and run by First Lt. Rebecca Cornell du Houx.

She and another soldier, Sgt. Aleigh Suffern, decided to form the support group in the wake of a recent Bangor Daily News investigation into a predatory culture inside the Maine Army National Guard that soldiers say is permissive of sexual misconduct, retaliates against women who come forward, and goes easy on perpetrators. Read the full article HERE.

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Celebrate Giving Tuesday by helping women veterans and their families, oped in the Bangor Daily News by Rebecca Cornell du Houx, ED Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope. She has also been in the military for over 18 years. This column does not reflect the beliefs of the military. November 29, 2021

Read the full oped HERE.

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TV interview with Martha St. Pierre: Maine-ly Vets Portland Media Center, Channel 1303 – May 2, 2019

Betsy Ann Rose House of Hope food drive planned Centralmaine.com – February 15, 2019

Central Maine business briefs:
Augusta home for veterans gets $40,000 donation
Centralmaine.com – August 4, 2018

Community Compass: Local women veterans need your help by Anita Weeks, centralmaine.com – June 25, 2018

National Veteran’s News

Free Dental Care for Veterans Available June 8 by Jim Absher, Military.com – May 1, 2019

Veteran commits suicide in Austin VA waiting room KXXV ABC 25 – April 10, 2019

THEN AND NOW: How women’s roles have changed in the US military by Talia Lakritz, Insider – March 6, 2019

Issues Facing Today’s Female Veterans — ‘Feeling Invisible and Disconnected’
by Valerie L. Dripchak, PhD, LCSW; Social Work Today – December, 2018

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