Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. 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.
How Do I Talk with Someone Right Now?
To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:
- Call 988, then select 1.
- Text 838255.
- Start a confidential chat.
- If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 800-799-4889.
You can also:
- Call 911.
- Go to the nearest emergency room.
- Go directly to your nearest VA medical center. It doesn't matter what your discharge status is or if you're enrolled in VA health care.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) 101
Presented by Jennifer Fox, LCSW, Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. This presentation will define MST, identify common physical and mental health symptoms and diagnoses associated with MST, cover available treatment options, provide contact information for local MST coordinators within Veterans Integrated Service Network 10 (parts of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) and identify other resources to assist with the MST healing process.
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 documentation of the MST experiences or a VA disability rating to get care.
Our services include:
- MST coordinator at every VA medical facility to serve as a contact person for MST-related issues and who can assist you in accessing care
- MST-related outpatient services at every VA medical center and many VA community-based outpatient clinics
- Mental health services, including psychological assessment and evaluation, medication evaluation and treatment, and individual and group psychotherapy for mental health conditions associated with MST, like:
- MST-related outpatient counseling through VA’s community-based Vet Centers
- MST-related treatment in VA’s residential (live-in) or inpatient programs for individuals who need more intensive treatment and support
A note on who can receive these services
We refer to “Veterans” on this page. But these groups can also receive care related to experiences of MST:
- Most former service members with an Other Than Honorable or uncharacterized (entry-level) discharge
- 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. We may require a Department of Defense referral for some types of services.
For more information, please contact your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator:
Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator 317-988-3449
Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program Coordinator 317-988-9884
VA uses the term military sexual trauma, or MST, to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurs during military service. Anyone in the military can experience MST, regardless of their branch of service, age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. MST can occur at any time or place during military service — while on or off duty and on or off base. The perpetrator or perpetrators may or may not be known to the survivor and may be fellow Service members or civilians.
MST can include:
- Being pressured or coerced into sexual activities, such as with threats of negative treatment for refusing to cooperate or with promises of better treatment in exchange for sex.
- Being physically forced to have sex.
- Being touched in a sexual way that makes you uncomfortable, including during “hazing.”
- Being subjected to comments about your body or sexual activities that you found threatening.
- Sexual contact without your consent, such as when you are asleep or intoxicated.
- Receiving unwanted sexual messages or texts.
- Having intimate images or videos taken or shared without your permission.
How Do I Access VA's MST-related Services?
To receive MST-related care, you don’t need to have reported the MST at the time or have other proof that the MST happened. Veterans don't need to have a service-connected disability rating, and you may be able to get MST-related care even if you aren’t eligible for other VA services.
Here’s how to access VA's MST-related services:
- 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 VA's web site 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.
Can I Get Disability Compensation (monthly payments) or Other Benefits from VA?
Can I Get Disability Compensation (monthly payments) or Other Benefits from VA?
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.
Or get help applying for disability compensation by:
- Reading our fact sheet to learn about disability compensation for conditions related to MST.
Read the MST fact sheet (PDF)
- Talking to an MST outreach coordinator at your nearest VA regional office. You can ask to talk to a female or male coordinator:
Indiana (Indianapolis Regional Office)
Kimberlyn Tutt - Female Primary
Roselyn Sanders - Female Alternate
How does MST affect survivors?
It’s important to understand that MST is an experience, not a diagnosis. As with other types of trauma, people can react to MST in many different ways. Although MST can be a life-changing experience, survivors are remarkably resilient. Some recover on their own. For many, however, the experience of MST continues to affect their mental and physical health, work, relationships, or everyday life — sometimes years after the experience. More information on the effects of MST can be found at www.MentalHealth.va.gov/msthome.
How many Veterans and former Service members experienced MST?
When asked by their VA health care provider whether they experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault during military service, about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 50 men respond yes. This means that there are significant numbers of both men and women who have experienced MST. In fact, almost one-third of survivors who tell a VA provider they experienced MST are men.
Where Can I Find More Information and Support?
- Go to our VA mental health website to download MST brochures and fact sheets as well as the self-help “Beyond MST” app. You can also 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
- 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.
Connect With a Coordinator
Learn more about VA health services to help support Veterans with PTSD.
Learn more about VA health services to help support Veterans with depression.
Learn more about VA services to help support Veterans at risk of suicide and their families.
Learn more about VA health services to help support Veterans with substance use problems.