During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, VA is connecting with Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) and raising public awareness of its MST-related services and treatment options.

Understanding military sexual trauma

VA defines MST as sexual assault or sexual harassment during military service. Every Veteran is different, but many MST survivors experience lasting effects on their physical and mental health. Some common challenges — such as sleep issues, depression, problems with anger and feelings of isolation — can take years to surface.

Even though Veterans of every era, branch, gender, racial or ethnic background, and sexual orientation have experienced MST, many survivors feel alone, ashamed, disconnected and unable to ask for help. MST can be hard to understand, and even harder to talk about. VA wants survivors to know that they’re not alone, that they can get support if they need it, that recovery is possible and that VA is here for them.

A community of support is ready to help

“The free care VA offers for MST-related conditions is one of the many reasons I’m so proud to work here,” said Chris Skidmore, Ph.D., Associate Director of VA’s national Military Sexual Trauma Support Team. “VA raises awareness about this throughout the year, but Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an especially important time. This is when VA staff in every health care system across the country go above and beyond to shout it from the rooftops. We want Veterans from all backgrounds to know that we hear you, we know you are strong and resilient, and we are here for you.”

VA offers free, confidential counseling and treatment to Veterans for mental and physical health conditions related to MST.

Eligibility for MST-related care is broad, with no documentation of the MST required. Veterans do not need to have reported the MST or sought care for it within a certain time frame, and no application for service connection is necessary to receive this care.

If you experienced MST, VA is here for you. Compassionate VA professionals can answer questions care for conditions related to MST and can help you find the resources that are right for you. Just contact your local VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator. They serve as a contact person for MST-related issues and can help Veterans access care, or a VA primary care provider.

Help us spread the word about VA’s services and support for Veterans who experienced MST by downloading these Sexual Assault Awareness Month resources and sharing them with your networks.

Susan J. McCutcheon, RN, EdD is the National Mental Health Director of Family Services, Women’s Mental Health and Military Sexual Trauma for VA’s Office of Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention.

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Published on Apr. 2, 2020

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