In both civilian and military settings, service members can experience a range of unwanted sexual behaviors that they may find distressing. These experiences happen to both women and men. “Military sexual trauma” or MST is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening acts of sexual harassment.
The definition of MST used by the VA is given by U.S. Code (1720D of Title 38). It is “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.” Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”
Derek L. Hall, PC assists veterans in pursuing disability claims for military sexual trauma (MST) and other veterans disability claims. Contact our Jackson military sexual trauma attorney online or call us today at 601-768-8267 for a free initial consultation.
MST includes any sexual activity in which you are involved against your will. You may have been pressured into sexual activities. For example, you may have been threatened with negative consequences for refusing to go along. It may have been implied that you would get faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex. You may not have been able to consent to sexual activities; for example, if you were intoxicated. You may have been physically forced into sexual activities.
Other MST experiences include:
- Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing
- Threatening, offensive remarks about your body or your sexual activities
- Threatening and unwelcome sexual advances
If these experiences occurred while you were on active duty or active duty for training, they are considered to be MST.
How Can MST Affect Veterans?
It’s important to remember that MST is an experience. It is not a diagnosis or a mental health condition in and of itself. Given that veterans report a wide range of distressing sexually-related experiences, it is not surprising that they have a wide range of emotional responses.
There is no one way that every person will respond, even after a very distressing experience. A veteran’s response may vary in terms of the type of response, how severe it is and how long it lasts. For some veterans, experiences of MST may continue to affect their mental and physical health, even many years later.
Your response may depend on factors such as:
- Whether you have a prior history of trauma
- The types of responses you received from others at the time of the experience
- Whether the experience happened once or was repeated over time
Here are some of the difficulties both female and male survivors of MST may have:
- Strong emotions
- Feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional responses to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time
- Feelings of numbness
- Feeling emotionally “flat”; trouble feeling love or happiness
- Trouble sleeping; trouble falling or staying asleep; bad dreams or nightmares
- Trouble with attention, concentration and memory
- Trouble staying focused; often finding your mind wandering; having a hard time remembering things
- Problems with alcohol or other drugs. Drinking to excess or using drugs daily; getting drunk or “high” to cope with memories or unpleasant feelings; drinking to fall asleep
- Trouble with reminders of the sexual trauma
- Feeling on edge or “jumpy” all the time; not feeling safe; going out of your way to avoid reminders of the trauma; trouble trusting others
- Problems in relationships
- Feeling alone or not connected to others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures
- Physical health problems
- Sexual issues; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; stomach or bowel problems