Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to both sexual assault and sexual harassment which occurs in a military setting. MST is defined as psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment, which occurred while serving on active duty or active duty for training. Sexual harassment constitutes repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is experienced as threatening and unwelcome. Both men and women can experience military sexual trauma. The perpetrator can be of the same or of the opposite gender. It is possible to have PTSD resulting from military sexual trauma as well as from combat.
It is common for someone who has experienced MST to struggle with fear, anxiety, embarrassment, or profound anger as a result of these experiences and many symptoms are similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A survivor may experience sleep abnormalities, weight gain or loss, prolonged sadness, anxiety (both social and in general), memory loss, depression, insomnia, lashing out/fits of anger, changes in sex drive, emotional sensitivity, emotional numbness and a desire to numb pain, emotions, memories, etc., with medication, drugs and/or alcohol.
There is help in the form of a variety of treatment options. The Veterans Administration (VA) offers treatment for the effects of military sexual trauma, as well as compensation if eligible. In addition, community mental health agencies and private practice clinicians can provide treatment in a non-military setting. Among the many treatment options are workbooks, individual and group counseling, specialized yoga and breathing classes, and anger management assistance to name a few.
Remember, you are a survivor and it was not your fault. Reach out for the support and healing you deserve. If you feel you are in crisis, please do not wait…call and speak to a crisis counselor by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1-800-273-TALK (8255), press 1 to speak to a Veteran. If you feel you are in immediate danger, go to your local Emergency Room or call 911.