Iron Mountain, Mich. (WZMQ) – A screening program for females at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is being expanded to include all veterans beginning next week, and will be implemented within 30 days of March 20th. The Military Sexual Trauma and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Coordinator said that one in 3 women report that they have experienced sexual trauma while they were in the military, and 1 in 4 women will experience sexual trauma or physical violence in their lifetime, according to national statistics.
There isn’t data yet published within the VA, because the screening processes for reporting are so new. The Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program has been implemented at the VA within the last few years, including screening for females at the VA.
The new screening programs will mean that all veterans will now be screened for IPV at least annually. “That’s important because we know that women that talk to their healthcare providers are four times more likely to use an intervention, and 2.6 times more likely to exit an abusive relationship. And we’ve already seen that come to fruition here in the VA,” said Sarita Gruszynski, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Military Sexual Trauma and Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Coordinator.
The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center Covers the whole U.P. and 9 counties in Northern Wisconsin, including 8 CBOC’s (community-based outpatient clinics). The facility covers outreach in such a large rural area, that one of Gruszynski’s main goals for fiscal year ’23 involves a lot of outreach to promote healthy relationships.
“The Native American population, they’re our largest cultural population of veterans, and I’m partnering with our Native American Program Manager to bring these important resources and programs to female veterans and to area tribal communities,” she commented. The outreach will span the entire rural area of the U.P., from northern Wisconsin all the way to Chippewa County.
Katie Maxon, the Chief of Public Affairs and Voluntary Service at the Iron Mountain VA commented on the coordination between the Women’s Veteran Program Office at the VA with the Military Sexual Trauma and Intimate Partner Violence Programs.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a very active collaborative team. It works nicely when our Women’s Program and MST/IPV can coordinate together. It speaks both to the quantity and quality of care that we have here on how much they collaborate and cross over helping each other,” Maxon remarked. Maxon added that there will be a new mini-residency training offered to providers at the end of this month, specifically regarding care for women at the VA.
“It’ll give providers an opportunity to take advantage of some subject-matter experts to be able to learn a little bit more about that kind of care,” said Maxon.
In addition to the many women’s programs the facility offers, the Iron Mountain VA will also be bringing back a couples’ program called Warrior to Soulmate, which is a non-therapeutic, communication-based curriculum for groups of couples, offered either at the facility or via zoom.
The White Ribbon Pledge, a national campaign to ban gender-based violence and aggression, which was mentioned by President Biden’s VHA Undersecretary, Dr. Shareef Elnahal last month, is also observed and prioritized by the Oscar G. Johnson staff in Iron Mountain.
“It works to promote a culture shift throughout all of our employees. We take an oath to watch for and commit to making sure that we are cognizant of our language in the prevention of sexual harassment and violence,” said Maxon. Maxon added that the White Ribbon Campaign is recognized annually at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center, and staff hope to elevate the White Ribbon Campaign as much as they can for veterans.
Maxon said that the Women Veterans Program and the Military Sexual Trauma/IPV offices partner very effectively with community providers, including independent providers and healthcare systems, to bring care where it is convenient for women to access.
“We are very, very proud of the fact that we are rated second in the nation for our women’s trust scores,” Maxon commented. Maxon explained that women veterans are able to participate in a survey after they receive care. Maxon added that staff at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center are very proud to serve women veterans and know that they have that much trust and reliance that they’ll receive the care that they need.
The Oscar G. Johnson will be collaborating with Iron Mountain’s Caringhouse for the upcoming Sexual Assault Awareness month in April.
“The collaboration with Caringhouse has increased tremendously, so I do attend their sexual assault response team meetings every month, where all of those agencies come together at the same table to review cases and processes and try to make things better for the community,” said Gruszynski.
“We are doing some activities with the Caringhouse,” the Military Sexual Assault Coordinator informed. The Caringhouse does a “Paint the town teal”, where advocates hang teal ribbons across downtown Iron Mountain to spread awareness and advocacy for sexual assault. Gruszynski informed that the medical facility now has approval to do a similar activity on the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center’s campus during the month of April.
For the Domestic Violence hotline at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center, contact: 1-800-799-7233
For services offered by the Military Sexual Trauma and Intimate Partner Violence office at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Facility, contact Sarita Gruszynski, LMSW at 906-774-3300, ext. 32531
For more information about the White Ribbon Pledge, visit
For non-veterans in need of sexual assault or domestic violence services in Dickinson County and the surrounding areas, community members can contact the Caringhouse of Iron Mountain’s 24/7 crisis line at: 906-774-1112