Film Screening - Making Love after Making War: Supporting Intimate Relationships for Wounded Warriors and their Families
A new addition to the Saturday night line up at the AASECT 48th Annual Conference is a short documentary and in depth discussion with AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator, Counselor, Supervisor Mitch Tepper, PhD, MPH. Mitch added filmmaker to his body of work in the field of sexuality with Making Love after Making War: Supporting Intimate Relationships for Wounded Warriors and their Families. Mitch was kind to share his thoughts about the purpose of the documentary and how sexuality professionals might use the documentary in the interview below. We hope you will join Mitch as he unveils the documentary and leads a much needed conversation around intimacy, relationships, and veterans and their families at the AASECT Conference in June.
1. What led you to focus on intimacy amongst wounded warriors and their families?
As you may or may not know, I’ve been personally and professionally dedicated to ending silence around sexuality and disabilities ever since I broke my neck in a diving accident while on duty as a lifeguard in 1982. I have been and continue to live a full life with spinal cord injury for over 30 years.
I started working with wounded warriors in 2006 when I was invited to speak at the Road to Recovery conference. Each year, the Road to Recovery conference would host over 100 severely wounded warriors and their families in Disney World and provide a one-stop-shopping experience where participants can access all the various counseling, vocational and recreational services that the military and Veterans’ associations have to offer.
I was called on because of my reputation for helping people who sustained serious injuries along their journey of sexual healing. The privilege of being part of the Road to Recovery Conference instilled in me a sense of duty to continue to serve this population.
I have been advocating for the provision of sexual health care inclusive of support for intimate relationships for wounded warriors and their partners ever since my initial engagement with seriously injured vets. While there has been progress in both the Department of Defense and the VA, the progress has been slow and hindered by lack of funding in the government’s budget for these services.
It’s up to all of our members to pitch in one way or another to help these wounded warriors and their families get the care they deserve in this most intimate and defining area of their lives.
2. Why do you think it is important to talk about intimacy as part of our sexual health?
One thing routinely missing from medical rehabilitation services is attention to sexual health and intimate relationships. This is untenable given the facts that failed intimate relationships contribute significantly to suicide, intimate partner violence, child abuse, reduced quality of life, homelessness, and substance abuse, and that people who return from deployment with a serious physical or mental disability bear a disproportionate burden of marital stress and divorce than their non-disabled counterparts. It’s important to note that by intimacy I’m referring to physical intimacy and emotional closeness, both of which are multifaceted.
3. What was your experience like to document people sharing their perspectives around intimacy?
Profoundly moving. I also feel an important responsibility to give back to those who share their stories with me, whether they end up being in the documentary or not. I end up providing a lot of pro bono sexuality education and counseling that is also very rewarding.
4. How would you like to the see the documentary used in sexuality practices?
First I would like to see the final documentary made available to the Department of Defense, the VA, and to veteran service organizations to show on a regular basis to their injured members. Next, I would like it available on Netflix or HBO to increase the general public’s awareness of the need to support the sexual health of our wounded warriors and their partners. I would also like to see it being used in educational programs that prepare not only sexuality educators, counselors and therapists therapist and other healthcare professionals to address the topics of sexuality and disability and of sexual resilience.
For more information and to support my crowdfunding campaign to continue with the documentary and to create a companion website to offer information, support, and eventually individualized counseling to wounded warriors and partners, please visit loveafterwar.org. Mitch’s session, will be Saturday June 11, 2016 at 7:00pm.
Making Love after Making War: Supporting Intimate Relationships for Wounded Warriors and their Families