Effects of Military Sexual Trauma | VA Mental Health
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma and the COVID-19 pandemic
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.
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 during military service in which you are involved against your will or when unable to say no. 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
- 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
People of all genders , ages, sexual orientations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and branches of service have experienced MST. 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
- Using alcohol or other drugs to numb or escape from negative feelings
- Feeling isolated from other people
- Difficulties with anger, irritability, or other strong emotions
- Self-doubt, self-blame, or decreased self esteem
- Issues with sleep
- Physical health problems
If you are having any current difficulties related to MST, VA is here to support you in whatever way will help you best — from 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.
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.