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Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Definition

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other unwanted sexual experiences that occur during a person’s military service. It can affect both male and female service members, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender or relation. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides support and healthcare services to address the psychological and physical consequences of MST for veterans.

Key Takeaways

  1. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to any sexual harassment or assault experienced during military service, including unwanted sexual touching, threatening, or coercive sexual behaviors.
  2. VA benefits are available to both male and female veterans who have experienced MST, offering free and confidential counseling, treatment, and support services to help overcome the psychological and physical impacts.
  3. To access the MST-related benefits and services, veterans don’t need to have reported the incident during their service or possess documentation of the trauma, only a VA healthcare professional’s assessment is required.

Importance

The term “Military Sexual Trauma (MST)” is important due to its significant impact on the mental and physical well-being of service members.

MST refers to the psychological trauma resulting from a physical sexual assault, harassment, or threatening sexual behavior that occurs during military service.

Being able to accurately identify and address MST within the context of VA benefits enables veterans to receive proper healthcare services, counseling, and support they need for their recovery.

Understanding MST helps raise awareness about the issue, promote a culture of prevention and accountability within the military, and ensures that survivors are treated with respect and dignity, ultimately improving the lives of those who’ve served and suffered from such trauma.

Explanation

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is a term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to address the unique challenges faced by veterans who have experienced sexual assault or harassment during their military service. The purpose of acknowledging and addressing MST is to provide comprehensive support and resources to affected veterans, helping them cope with the emotional, physical, and mental aftermath of such distressing experiences.

By recognizing MST as a distinct form of trauma separate from combat-related stress, the VA aims to create a more inclusive and sensitive environment for those who have suffered from these incidents, ensuring their needs are met and their voices are heard. To accomplish this, the VA offers a range of services and benefits specifically designed to cater to the needs of MST survivors, such as free health care and counseling, without the requirement of a disability compensation claim.

VA facilities have specially trained providers who understand the complexities of MST, and they work closely with survivors to develop appropriate treatment plans that foster healing and recovery. Furthermore, the VA actively promotes awareness and prevention of MST through education and training initiatives.

By addressing MST in a comprehensive and compassionate manner, the VA demonstrates its commitment to support all veterans, regardless of the nature of the challenges they faced during their service.

Examples of Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to the psychological and emotional impact of experiencing sexual assault or sexual harassment during military service. Here are three real-world examples of MST:

In 1991, during the Navy Tailhook scandal, numerous female naval officers were sexually assaulted and harassed at the Tailhook Association Symposium in Las Vegas. Over 100 aviators were implicated, and the event led to enhanced awareness about MST and changes in policies and training across the military.

In 2012, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas was at the center of a widespread military sexual assault scandal. Dozens of female recruits reported being sexually assaulted or harassed by male instructors. Investigations found that more than 40 female trainees were victims of MST, resulting in criminal charges for several male instructors and changes in the reporting and prevention procedures for sexual assault cases in the military.

The Marine Corps’ nude photo-sharing scandal in 2017, known as Marines United, revealed that explicit photos of service members were shared without their consent on a private Facebook group and other websites. The scandal highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and exploitation within the military and led to criminal investigations and policy reform related to addressing and preventing MST.

FAQ: Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to sexual harassment or sexual assault experienced during military service. It includes any unwanted and/or coercive sexual activities, whether verbal or physical in nature.

Who is at risk of experiencing MST?

All military personnel, including men and women serving in any branch of the military, are at risk of experiencing MST. It can occur during active service, training, or while on duty.

How does the VA help veterans affected by MST?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides support and resources for veterans affected by MST, including free, confidential counseling and treatment, regardless of service connection or eligibility for other VA benefits. Mental health services, medical treatments, and disability compensation may also be provided.

How can a veteran apply for VA benefits related to MST?

Veterans can apply for VA benefits related to MST by filing a claim with their local VA regional office. They can also seek assistance from a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) who can help navigate the application process. Documentation of the incident(s) may be required to help prove that MST occurred.

What if a veteran is not comfortable discussing MST with a provider?

The VA empathizes with the sensitivity surrounding MST and makes every effort to ensure veterans feel comfortable and safe when discussing their experiences. VA facilities have designated MST coordinators who can help facilitate the discussion, as well as specialized treatment programs in place to assist veterans in coping with MST.

Are there any resources available for the family and friends of veterans affected by MST?

Yes. The VA offers certain support services for the family members and friends of veterans affected by MST. This includes educational resources, counseling, and support groups to help loved ones better understand and support those who have experienced MST.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR)
  • Veterans Benefits for MST Survivors
  • Mental Health Treatment for MST
  • Veterans Crisis Line

Sources for More Information