Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurs during military service.
After experiencing MST, women may have strong emotions, difficulty with trust and self-esteem, or other problems at work and at home. Recovery from experiences of MST is possible. This page lists different resources that can help you learn more about MST and support you in the process of healing.
Get started with this stress self-assessment, available on Health.mil. Based on your responses, you will receive feedback on your current stress level, as well as personalized recommendations and resources that may be helpful to you.
Did you know that VA provides free health care for physical and mental health conditions related to MST? There are no time limits on eligibility, and Veterans do not need to have reported the MST or have documentation that it happened. An overview of all VA services can be found in thisfact sheet:
Veterans who have experienced MST can file a claim to receive compensation for MST-related injuries or disabilities. This Guide from the VA provides more information.
For more information on finding treatment for MST and or mental health conditions, check out our section on Finding Help for Mental Health Needs.
Help for Veterans Distressed by Recent Events Related to Military Sexual Trauma and Violence Toward People of Color: This handout provides support and coping assistance to Veterans experiencing increased distress from recent events such as the murders of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen and of other people of color.
Key Research Findings
A recent survey study conducted by VA researchers examined MST in more than 20,000 Veterans who deployed to OEF/OIF or served elsewhere during the same time period. The survey asked Veterans if they had ever experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault during their service.
Study Findings (view an infographic describing the study results):
- 42% of women Veterans and 4% of men Veterans had experienced MST
- Deployed and non-deployed women Veterans were equally likely to experience MST
- Among both men and women, Veterans who had been exposed to combat had an even higher risk of MST
MST affects a large proportion of Veterans, especially women Veterans. Efforts to stop MST and to support those who have experienced MST are needed.
Barth, S. K., Kimerling, R. E., Pavao, J., McCutcheon, S. J., Batten, S. V., Dursa, E., … Schneiderman, A. I. (2016). Military sexual trauma among recent Veterans: Correlates of sexual assault and sexual harassment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 50, 77–86. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.012
This study looked at how unit support influenced sexual harassment and sexual assault during deployment among 1,674 (10% women) National Guard service members.
- Women were more likely than men to experience sexual harassment and/or sexual assault
- 44% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment and 19% reported experiencing sexual assault during their most recent deployment
- Greater unit support was associated with a lower likelihood of experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault among both men and women
Unit support is important and may be a potential factor decreasing the odds of experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault.
Walsh, K., Galea, S., Cerda, M., Richards, C., Liberzon, I., Tamurrino, M. B., … Koenen, K. C. (2014). Unit support protects against sexual harassment and assault among National Guard Soldiers. Womens Health Issues, 24, 600-604. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2014.05.006
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