Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. It includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.
Both women and men can experience MST during their service. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma because we know that any type of trauma can affect a person’s physical and mental health, even many years later. We also know that people can recover from trauma. VA has free services to help Veterans do this. You do not need to have a VA disability rating (be “service connected”) to receive these services and may be able to receive services even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
VA Programs & Services
While MST can be a very difficult experience, recovery is possible. Treatment can help improve your quality of life by focusing on strategies for managing emotions and memories or, for Veterans who are ready, involve actually talking about their MST experiences in depth.
At the VA, Veterans can receive free, confidential treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to MST. You may be able to receive this MST-related care even if you are not eligible for other VA services. To receive these services, you do not need a VA service-connected disability rating, to have reported the incident when it happened, or have other documentation that it occurred.
Knowing that MST survivors may have special needs and concerns, every VA healthcare facility has an MST Coordinator who can answer any questions you might have about VA’s MST services. VA also has a range of other services available to meet Veterans where they are at in their recovery:
For more information, Veterans can speak with their existing VA healthcare provider, contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center, or contact their local Vet Center. A list of VA and Vet Center facilities can be found online by using the VA Facility Locator or Vet Center Locator. Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a clinician of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable. Veterans can also call VA’s general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000. Information in Spanish is available in this brochure (PDF).
Articles & Fact Sheets
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