Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Definition

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to a servicemember’s experience with sexual assault or harassment occurring at any point during military service.

Examples of MST include: forced or coerced sexual encounters; sexual encounters perpetrated while a person is unwilling or unable to give consent; inappropriate sexual jokes or lewd remarks; unwanted physical contact that makes you uncomfortable; repeated sexual advances; and offers of something in exchange for sexual favors.

Anyone can experience MST which can negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health, even years after the experience. The following things can arise: disturbing memories or nightmares; difficulty feeling safe; feelings of depression or numbness; problems with alcohol or other drugs; feeling isolated from other people; problems with anger, irritability, or other strong emotions; issues with sleep; and physical health problems.


Facts & Numbers

  • It’s estimated that one in four Women Veterans have experienced military sexual trauma
  • About one in 100 male Veterans have been affected by MST
  • By percentage, women are at greater risk of MST but nearly 40% of Veterans who disclose MST are men

Local Resources

A Community for Peace | 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (916) 728-7210
A state-certified trauma-informed social justice crisis center serving children and adult survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Casa de Esperanza | Crisis: (530) 674-2040
Provides protection and education for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and child abuse.

Empower Yolo | 24/7 Crisis Lines: (530) 662-1133 / (916) 371-1907
Empower Yolo is here to help. You are not alone. Trained advocates are available 24/7 to provide free crisis intervention, emotional support, advocacy, information and referrals. All calls to Empower Yolo are private and confidential.

My Sister’s House | 24-Hour Multilingual Helpline: (916) 428-3271
Serves Asian and Pacific Islander and other underserved women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking by providing a culturally appropriate and responsive safe haven, job training, and community services.

Stand Up Placer | 24-Hour Crisis Line: 1-800-575-5352
A private, non-profit, community-based organization providing comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in Placer County.

WEAVE | 24 Hour Support & Information Line: (916) 920-2952
WEAVE is Sacramento County’s sole Rape Crisis Center. Our services exist to support survivors of sexual assault – and family and friends impacted by the assault. WEAVE offers 24/7 support and free counseling to any survivor of sexual assault, regardless of when the assault occurred.


VA Resources

VA Mental Health: Military Sexual Trauma
If you are having current difficulties related to MST, VA is here to support you in whatever way will help you best — from simply learning more about how MST affects people, to treatment that helps you cope with how MST is impacting your life currently, or if you prefer, treatment that involves discussing your experiences in more depth.

  • Treatment: MST can be a very difficult life experience, but recovery is possible. VA has a range of services available to meet MST survivors where they are at in their recovery.
  • Resources: Fact sheets, stories of recovery, and other resources
  • Community Provider Toolkit: This toolkit summarizes key educational and outreach resources for providers in the community who want to learn more about MST and VA’s free MST-related services.
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month: VA continues to provide services and support year-round for Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).

VA Northern California Health Care System (NCHCS) Military Sexual Trauma
Both women and men can experience military sexual trauma (MST) during their service. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma because we know that any type of trauma can affect a person’s physical and mental health, even many years later. We also know that people can recover from trauma. VA has services to help Veterans do this.

The VA provides confidential counseling and treatment at no-cost to male and female Veterans for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. Patients do not need to be service connected and may be able to receive this benefit even if not eligible for other VA care. The incident does not need to have been reported when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred.

With questions about services or contacts, call the NCHCS MST Recovery Coordinator: Catherine M. Novotny, PhDl, (925) 372-2554

In case of emergency, the Veterans Crisis line is 1-800-273-8255.


Military Programs & Resources

U.S. Air Force Resilience: Leadership Tools for Crisis Prevention, Intervention & Postvention
The vision is to establish a national benchmark for recovery and eliminate sexual assault through empowered and engaged Airmen. To accomplish that goal, we educate, advocate and collaborate through our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response teams at all Air Force installations to respond to and stop sexual assault and its harmful effects on the Air Force.

U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP)
All Soldiers and Department of the Army (DA) Civilians have a responsibility to help resolve acts of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be a precursor behavior to sexual assault. In a climate of sexual assault prevention, it is important to address sexually harassing behaviors so that this conduct does not escalate. Additionally, Soldiers and Army Civilians should work to ensure a safe, productive work environment, free of sexual harassment. Military personnel should report incidents of sexual harassment through their SARC.

U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention Response & Recovery (SAPRR) Program

U.S. Marine Corps Community Services Sexual Assault Prevention
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) is a science-based, comprehensive and integrated program for the United States Marine Corps that is committed to the prevention and ultimate elimination of sexual assault in the Corps while simultaneously providing world-class care to victims of the crime. SAPR is a Commander’s Program that is supported by several agencies across the Corps, including but not limited to Headquarters Marine Corps SAPR, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Chaplains, Clinical Counseling Program, Victims’ Legal Counsel Organization, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and Judge Advocate Division.

U.S. Navy Sexual Assault Prevention Response (SAPR)
​The mission is to issue policies and standards to aid in the prevention of sexual assault throughout the Navy, provide support to victims, define requirements, and assign responsibility for implementation of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program. 

DoD Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) is responsible for oversight of the Department’s sexual assault policy. SAPRO works hand-in-hand with the Services and the civilian community to develop and implement innovative prevention and response programs.


Additional Resources

DoD Safe Helpline | 24-Hour Helpline: 1-877-995-5247
Safe Helpline is the Department of Defense’s (DoD) sole hotline for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline is a completely anonymous, confidential, 24/7, specialized service—providing help and information anytime, anywhere.  A Safe Helpline user can access one-on-one support, peer-to-peer support, information, resources and self-care exercises 24/7 to aid in their recovery.  Since 2011, Safe Helpline has provided support and resources to thousands of members of the DoD community. Live Chat & Live Group Chat are also available.

Health.mil: Sexual Assault Prevention
According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 6495.01, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program, sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault can occur without regard to gender or spousal relationship or age of victim

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) | COVID-19
The leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence. NSVRC translates research and trends into best practices that help individuals, communities and service providers achieve real and lasting change. NSVRC also works with the media to promote informed reporting. Every April, NSVRC leads Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a campaign to educate and engage the public in addressing this widespread issue. NSVRC is also one of the three founding organizations of RALIANCE, a national, collaborative initiative dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation.

RAINN | National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is a safe, confidential service. When you call the hotline, only the first six numbers of the phone number are used to route the call, and your complete phone number is never stored in our system. Most states do have laws that require local staff to contact authorities in certain situations, like if there is a child or vulnerable adult who is in danger.