Protect Our Defenders News Blog


March Update for Protect Our Defenders Community

Here are a few special updates this month just for the survivor and friends community.

Webinar on Male Survivors 

  • Brian Lewis, a POD Advisory Board member and President of Men Recovering from Military Sexual Trauma spoke yesterday during a webinar on male survivors’ issues. The webinar was hosted by the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP). Military culture, response, and retaliation can make male victims less likely to report their assaults, and male survivors face unique issues in their recovery. The webinar discussed the scope of the problem within the U.S. Armed Forces and issues faced by male survivors, discussed aspects of the recovery process for male veterans and health care services available in the VHA. To see the full list of presenters, click here. If you missed it, there will be a recording and we will send out a link when it is available.

Women Social Justice Conference in Georgia

  • Registration is now open for the Second Annual Women Veterans Reunion and Empowerment Conference, March 27-28 in Kennesaw, Georgia, for all veterans, service members, service providers, and family members. Protect Our Defenders is providing a limited number of scholarships to the conference. If you are interested, please email Teresa at to inquire about scholarship availability.

A Tribute to Melissa

  • Our community was saddened to learn about the recent passing of Melissa Davis, an steadfast advocate in our community. One year ago, Melissa testified before a Senate subcommittee. Her testimony is on C-Span here. Advisory Board member Terri J. Odom shared this message: “When Melissa walked into a room, you instantly felt comfort and calm. She had a contagious smile. Melissa was a loving mother, wife, grandmother, friend and mentor to many across the country. She was a strong, solid advocate in the “good fight” for MST and true reform that would offer justice for victims of military rape and sexual assault. She knew first hand what it meant to be silenced and experience retaliation from reporting a sexual assault in the military. I heard Melissa testify to a panel in D.C. in 2012. I have heard hundreds of MST Stories and several testimonials but never have I heard a survivor speak with such natural passion and poise. Some knew her by her pen name Stormie Dunn. I hope we all remember her courage and bravery and generous knowledge she so willingly shared with us all. Melissa Davis passed away from stomach surgery while resting at her home. Let us all take a moment and remember the outstanding work and wonderful person that Melissa Davis was.”

A message on our community’s losses

Terri adds: “As we talk about loss in our community, I also feel that we should talk about suicide. Suicide isn’t easy to talk about but we all have been affected by it. I keep 1-800-273-8255 (press #1) on speed dialIt is also America’s responsibility to do more to provide mental health care for our veterans. The MST community carries a lot of pain, including feeling hopeless, sad, guilty, or unbearable pain! As a united survivor community, we must try hard to be supportive of each other — learn to agree to disagree with respect and love. We are all brothers and sisters with a common bond and core value. Remember, it takes courage and strength to ask for help. Ask, please! Thanks to Protect Our Defenders, other organizations and the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am typing this. My son sends his gratitude for me being alive today. We never know how someone else is feeling, or what they maybe going through. Be kind and we can always reach out to each other. Thank you all. With love and peace, Terri J. Odom.”


Victory for MST Survivor who was Denied Benefits

  • Congratulations to veteran and survivor Heath Philips, who after over 20 years of struggling, has finally won VA benefits. With the support of POD and Sen. Gillibrand, who pursued the case for her constituent, a court recently ruled that Heath is entitled to both VA health care and disability benefits. We are thrilled for Heath. But it is a national disgrace that veterans continue to be denied benefits. Heath wrote us: “I want to thank POD and their staff. They connected me with several people who helped. Sen. Gillibrand was a huge factor in not only being dedicated in helping military sexual assault survivors, but for taking the time to personally help me with my fight with the VA. There are so many people who have had my back through thick and thin…When I felt broken and wanted to give in they pulled me up…because of their help I continued to fight. Because of your support I didn’t give in and finally won and now am 100% service connected.”

We will continue to work directly with veterans like Heath through our Pro Bono Network and to advocate for reforms that support veterans on the Hill.