Military sexual trauma (MST) refers 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. It also includes 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. We know that people can recover from trauma. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma and are offered free services if the veteran needs and wants help, even many years later. 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.
Although many who are exposed to sexual trauma are remarkably resilient and do not have chronic difficulties, trauma can be associated with a number of difficulties including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, other anxiety problems, or problems relating to others. Problems related to MST can be treated through learning coping skills in individual or group therapy, through medication management, or through evidence based practices such as Prolonged Exposure or Cognitive Processing Therapy (click on this EBT for descriptions of these therapies). Treatments focus on improving one’s quality of life through skill development, learning how to change behavior, and learning how to identify and change troubling thoughts and memories. Therapy that focuses on talking about the sexual trauma can be beneficial but initially the focus of therapy is usually on coping with everyday problems and functioning better.
VA's National Mental Health Website The VA’s National Mental Health Website contains a wealth of information about military sexual trauma (http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp).
The National Center for PTSD website also contains a great deal of information about PTSD for veterans, family members, and providers http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/.
How to Access Services: To access services for psychological trauma, and other mental health difficulties, contact Mental Health Intake at 515-699-5999. For Military Sexual Trauma (MST) services, contact the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinator at 515-699-5677.