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Military sexual trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. Former Service Members and Veterans of all genders and from all types of backgrounds have experienced MST. If you're having difficulties related to MST, we're here to support you in whatever way will help you best. We can help you learn more about how MST affects people. We can provide treatment that helps you cope with how MST is impacting your life. Or if you'd prefer, we can provide treatment that involves discussing your experiences in more depth.

Your not alone

Coping Resources and Support for MST Survivors

For some people, the experience of military sexual trauma (MST) may continue to affect them in significant ways, even many years later. If you are feeling increased stress or anxiety related to MST, (including while looking at this webpage) the coping ideas on this page may help. Many coping and support resources are also available in Beyond MST app.

Coping During Especially Difficult Times

Survivors of trauma may experience particularly distressing emotions at certain times or because of current events. For example, public discussion and media coverage related to sexual assault, harassment, physical violence and other issues may bring up painful memories and feelings for MST survivors. Increasingly, many Veterans and Service members have been speaking out about their experiences. Discussion and sharing about the reality of these experiences is important; and, it is often still emotionally painful to hear. 

Harassment and discrimination related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender can also affect healing from MST. For some survivors, learning about violence and harassment motivated by sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or other hatred can lead to distressing thoughts like, “It could have been me,” or images of their own unwanted sexual experiences or experiences of harassment or discrimination.

During stressful times, you may notice more sudden, strong emotions; trouble concentrating; poor sleep or nightmares; feeling helpless, anxious, or depressed; or other changes. If you are feeling increased distress, please take your reactions seriously.

Here are some coping strategies that may help:

  • Remind yourself it is okay to feel upset. Your reactions are normal, and it does not mean there is something wrong with you or you’ve had a setback in your healing.
  • Do what works for you. Try safe, healthy things that have helped you cope during difficult times in the past. Know that you may need to try more than one thing, and it may take more energy or effort than usual.
  • Pace yourself. If you notice fatigue, irritability, poor focus, more anxiety or other signs you may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try to slow down, simplify or take a break.
  • Connect with your communities. Connect with supportive people in your life and community. Even if you do not tell others about your own experiences, it can still help to connect with them. Some people may also choose to engage in local advocacy efforts or provide support to others with similar experiences.
  • Limit exposure to media. Notice how the news or social media posts are affecting you, and if need be, limit how much you look at them. You can also focus on reading stories that give you hope or make you feel supported or less alone.
  • Inspire yourself. Recalling past successes can be an effective way of reminding yourself of your strength. It may also help to view inspiring quotes or stories about others who have experienced similar difficulties, like those available on the VA websites Make the Connection and AboutFace.

Other General Coping Strategies

  • Be kind to yourself. Practice being compassionate toward yourself, like how you might treat a friend or loved one. One way to do this is to ask yourself what gives you joy or meaning, and to do more of those activities.
  • Try breathing, relaxation and meditation activities. Mindful breathing, guided imagery and meditation can reduce stress, improve sleep, reduce pain, generate confidence and enhance focus. VA’s Whole Health Library offers many educational materials and relaxation exercises.
  • Maintain healthy habits as much as you can. As stress increases, your healthy habits may understandably decrease. It may take more effort to eat healthy meals, avoid substance misuse, prioritize exercise and get some sunlight each day, but these actions can be especially important during stressful times.
  • Get rest. Strive for seven or more hours of sleep each night. Less sleep than that can make you tired and less able to manage stress.
  • Increase mindful movement. Physical activity is vital for stress reduction. It doesn’t have to be extreme activity, either. Activities that help you mindfully reconnect to your body in a safe way, like yoga and tai chi, may help you feel particularly strong and steady.
  • Get support. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. You do not need tell them you’re feeling distressed, or about your MST experience, but you can if it helps. You can also just say, “I’m having a rough time right now,” without sharing details if that feels right. Or, you can spend time with someone without telling them how you are doing.
  • Remind yourself healing is a journey. You will have ups and downs, and there will be some times that are harder than others. Please remember that over time, you can move forward.

What services does VA provide related to MST?

We provide free treatment for any physical or mental health conditions related to your experiences of MST. You don’t need to have reported the MST at the time or have other proof that the MST occurred to get care.

We offer these services:

  • A Veterans Health Administration (VHA) MST coordinator at every VA medical facility. Coordinators serve as a contact person for MST-related issues. They can assist you in accessing care. 
230711-Hatton, Ashley-010-email.jpg

Ashley Hatton Psy.D.

Psychologist, MST Coordinator

VA Charleston health care


You can contact the MST Coordinator directly by logging into My HealtheVet and selecting "MST COORDINATOR - CHARLESTON VAHCS %" from the list of contacts in secure messaging.


  • MST-related outpatient services at every VA medical center and many VA community-based outpatient clinics. These services include psychological assessment and evaluation, medication evaluation and treatment, and individual and group psychotherapy for mental health conditions associated with MST. Treatment for physical health conditions related to MST is also available.
  • MST-related outpatient counseling through VA’s community-based Vet Centers.  

A Note on Care:

  • You can request to meet with a clinician of a particular gender if it helps you feel more comfortable. 
  • You don’t need to discuss or disclose your MST experience when registering with VA. Just ask to meet with a VA health care professional for a clinical evaluation. The provider can discuss your health concerns and help refer you to the MST-related mental health or medical care you need.
  • Many services are offered in-person or, if you prefer, via telehealth.

Who can receive these services?

  • MST-related services are available for Veterans and most former Service members, including those who received an Other Than Honorable discharge or served for fewer than two years. Standard length of service requirements do not apply to eligibility for MST-related care, and some individuals may be able to receive MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care. Service connection (that is, a VA disability rating) is not needed.
  • Former National Guard and Reserve members with federal active-duty service or a service-connected disability who were discharged under honorable conditions or with an other than honorable discharge. The service-connected disability doesn’t need to be related to your experiences of MST.
  • Current Service members also can receive services related to MST. At VA’s community-based Vet Centers, current Service members — including members of the National Guard and Reserves — can receive MST-related mental health counseling regardless of gender or era of service. No Department of Defense (DoD) referral is needed, and services are confidential with respect to DoD. In addition, current Service members can also receive MST-related care at VA medical facilities with a DoD referral and TRICARE authorization. General TRICARE copayment requirements may apply. Current Service members’ records from services at VA medical facilities are available to DoD through VA-DoD open health care record sharing.
  • For more information, please contact your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST coordinator
  • Find out if you can get VA health care as a Veteran Eligibility For VA Health Care | Veterans Affairs

How do I access VA services related to MST?

  • If you have a VA health care provider, consider telling that person that you experienced MST. All VA primary care and mental health providers complete training on MST and the treatment needs of people who've experienced it. Your provider can offer treatment referrals and support as needed.
  • Call your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST coordinator. You can ask to speak with a provider of a specific gender if that would make you feel more comfortable.
    Find a VA medical center near you
  • Contact a Vet Center and ask to speak with someone about MST-related counseling.
    Find a Vet Center near you
  • If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless:
    • Contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area. The call is free and confidential.
    • Visit our website to learn about VA programs for Veterans who are homeless.
      Learn about our homelessness programs
    • Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Even if you don’t qualify for VA health care, our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.
      Find your local Community Resource and Referral Center

You can also call the VA general information hotline at 800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

  • New to VA? Apply for health care benefits. Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. Start your application today

Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments) or other benefits from VA?

Former Service Members and Veterans can receive compensation for conditions that started or got worse in the line of duty. This includes injuries or disabilities related to MST. If you have questions, a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) MST outreach coordinator at your nearest regional office can explain more.  *Please note that applying for disability compensation is separate from eligibility for free MST-related healthcare services through VA.  

If you have questions, a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) MST outreach coordinator at your nearest regional office can explain more

Find your nearest regional office

Find an MST outreach coordinator near you 

Learn about MST and disability compensation

Where can I find more information and support?

Beyond MST Mobile App 

Free, secure and private self-help mobile app created specifically to support the health and well-being of survivors of MST. The app has over 30 specialized tools and other features to help MST survivors cope with challenges, manage symptoms, improve their quality of life and find hope. Users do not need to create an account or be in treatment to use the app. Any personal information entered in the app is not shared with anyone, including the VA. 

Beyond MST Flyer (PDF)


  • Go to our VA mental health website to learn more about our programs and services.
    Learn more about MST and VA's services
  • Play a video about MST, its effects on survivors, and VA services available to assist in recovery from MST.
    Play the video (YouTube)
  • Go to the Make the Connection website to hear stories from Veterans about their recovery from MST, and find more resources and support.
    Go to the Make the Connection website
  • Visit the Veteran Training self-help portal for free tools to work on problem-solving, manage anger, develop parenting skills and more.
  • If you're a current service member, please consider visiting the Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline website, a crisis support service for members of the DOD community affected by sexual assault. When you contact the Safe Helpline, you don't have to give your name and can remain anonymous. You can get 1-on-1 advice, support, and information 24/7—by phone, text, or online chat. You can also connect with a sexual assault response coordinator near your base or installation.


Fact Sheets

Below are downloadable brochures for survivors, educational tools for providers, and articles that help survivors and providers learn more about MST and VA’s free MST-related services.

  • Military Sexual Trauma Fact Sheet
    Background information about MST, including what it is, how it can affect survivors, and help available through VA.
  • Brochure for MST Survivors (English / Spanish)
    An overview of issues related to MST and how to access VA services.
  • Men and MST — Educational Brochure (English / Spanish) and Infographic (English / Spanish
    Information on men’s recovery from MST.
  • Women and MST — Infographic (English | Spanish
    Information on women’s recovery from MST.
  • VA’s Health Care Services for MST
    Summary of eligibility requirements and types of MST-related health care services available through VA.



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