Military Sexual Trauma - Mental Health
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Military Sexual Trauma

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Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual trauma and the COVID-19 pandemic

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VA understands how military sexual trauma can continue to affect survivors long after the experience. That’s especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can bring about some new challenges in managing your recovery. Learn more about managing these challenges here.

Overview

VA uses the term “military sexual trauma” (MST) to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. MST includes any sexual activity that you are involved with against your will. Examples include:

  • Being pressured or coerced into sexual activities, such as with threats of negative treatment if you refuse to cooperate or with promises of better treatment in exchange for sex
  • Sexual contact or activities without your consent, including when you were asleep or intoxicated
  • Being overpowered or physically forced to have sex
  • Being touched or grabbed in a sexual way that made you uncomfortable, including during “hazing” experiences
  • Comments about your body or sexual activities that you found threatening
  • Unwanted sexual advances that you found threatening

Anyone can experience MST, regardless of gender. Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Things you may experience could include:

  • Disturbing memories or nightmares
  • Difficulty feeling safe
  • Feelings of depression or numbness
  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs
  • Feeling isolated from other people
  • Problems with anger, irritability, or other strong emotions
  • Issues with sleep
  • Physical health problems

If you are having current difficulties related to MST, VA is here to support you in whatever way will help you best — from simply learning more about how MST affects people, to treatment that helps you cope with how MST is impacting your life currently, or if you prefer, treatment that involves discussing your experiences in more depth.

For help with treatment and health care related to experiences of MST, please contact your local VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator.

Watch the video at the bottom of this page to learn about the effects of MST on survivors and the services VA has available to assist in recovery.

Veteran Resources

Beyond MST Mobile App icon
Beyond MST Mobile App

Free, secure and private self-help mobile app created specifically to support the health and well-being of survivors of MST. The app has over 30 specialized tools and other features to help MST survivors cope with challenges, manage symptoms, improve their quality of life and find hope. Users do not need to create an account or be in treatment to use the app. Any personal information entered in the app is not shared with anyone, including the VA.

Help for Veterans Distressed by Recent Events Related to MST and Violence Toward People of Color PDF

Coping suggestions and resources for connecting with care for MST survivors and others feeling pain and distress due to recent events related to MST and violence toward people of color.

Help with VA Benefits

This website focuses on the MST-related health care services that VA has available.

For information about VA disability compensation for conditions related to MST, please view this fact sheet about Disability Compensation for Personal Assault or Military Sexual Trauma.

For help with disability compensation related to MST, please contact the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) MST Coordinator your local VBA Regional Office.

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