Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual trauma (MST) is a technical term that refers to the psychological trauma experienced by military service members, as a result of sexual assault or sexual harassment, as classified by the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, MST includes “unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening; offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.”i

While only the Department of Veterans Affairs uses the term MST, the symptoms can also apply to active duty personnel. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that the mental health issues most often associated with MST are, “PTSD, other anxiety disorders, depression and other mood disorders, and substance use disorders (alcohol and drug problems).”ii

Symptoms associated with MST may include: iii

As reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, other symptoms of MST include the following:iv

  • Strong emotions
    • Feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional responses to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time
  • Feelings of numbness
    • Feeling emotionally "flat"; trouble feeling love or happiness
  • Trouble with reminders of the sexual trauma
    • Feeling on edge or "jumpy" all the time; not feeling safe; going out of your way to avoid reminders of the trauma; trouble trusting others
  • Problems in relationships
    • Feeling alone or not connected to others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures
  • Physical health problems
    • Sexual issues; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; stomach or bowel problems
  • Trouble with attention, concentration, and memory
    • Trouble staying focused; often finding your mind wandering; having a hard time remembering things

There is help available to survivors of sexual violence from both civilian and military resources, for MTS as well as other effects of sexual assault:

DoD Commuity Resources:

Veterans Affairs Resourcesv:

  • Speak with your VA health care provider
  • Contact the MST Coordinator or the Women Veterans Program Manager at your local VA Medical Center
  • Contact your local Vet Center

Civilian Resources:

iMilitary Sexual Trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2010.

iiMilitary Sexual Trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2010.

iiiMilitary Sexual Trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2010.

ivMilitary Sexual Trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2010.

vMilitary Sexual Trauma. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2010.

This product was supported by grant number 2009-D1-BX-K023 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice

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