What is military sexual trauma (MST)?
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the result of assault, harassment or rape of one member of the military upon another. The impact of MST has been associated with the impact of incest as the perpetrator is usually a person in whom you expect to be able to trust with your life.
What are the symptoms of MST?
- Feeling angry or irritable most of the time.
- Rarely feeling love or happiness.
- Trouble with sleep and disturbing nightmares.
- Difficulties with attention, concentration and memory.
- Excessive use of drugs or alcohol.
- Feeling isolated or disconnected from others.
- Trouble with employers, instructors or other authority figures.
- Physical health problems: sexual difficulties, chronic pain, weight or eating problems, gastrointestinal problems, low energy.
You are not alone
The Veterans Health Administration reports that 20% of women and 1% of men answer “yes” when screened for MST in VHA clinics while a Department of Defense report indicates that 60% of women in the military reserves and National Guard have reported experiencing military sexual trauma.
What can I do?
- Tell someone: talk to your family and your friends about your experience. Feeling a sense of support from your community is one of the most effective ways of reducing the impact of MST.
- Engage in healthy activities: eat well, exercise and try to get six to eight hours of sleep a night. Meditation as well as relaxation exercises are reported to help.
- If you are with the reserves, National Guard or on active duty then obtain more information and/or make a report at MyDuty.mil
If symptoms persist: inform your primary medical practitioner and obtain counseling;
Veterans Administration Medical Center Seattle MST coordinator 206.277.1816
Seattle Vet Center 206.553.0380
Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress 206.744.1600
UW Bothell Student Mental Health Counseling Services 425.352.3183
It is important to remember that MST is an experience, not a diagnosis or a mental health condition. The most common associated mental health conditions are posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and alcohol and drug abuse disorders.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
To learn more, visit any of the sources listed above or below.
“What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?”
“Women Veterans Health Care: Military Sexual Trauma,” United States Department of Veterans Affairs.