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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Finding your path to healing

Sexual Assault Awareness Month picture with caption finding your path to healing

With the message “We believe you, and we believe in you,” VA Puget Sound Health Care System is reaching out to survivors and their families, friends and supporters throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April.

“We know that it can be so courageous for Veterans who experienced MST to reach out for help,” said VA Puget Sound Seattle Campus Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator Julia Sewell. “We want them to know that they are not alone, that healing is possible and that MST is never their fault.”

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term VA uses to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred during military service. Healing after MST can take time. For some, the experience affects their physical and mental health, work, relationships and everyday life, even many years later. And everyone can play an important role in helping those affected navigate their individual path toward healing.

“MST affects people of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations and branches of service. And recovery can look very different for each person as it is not always a linear process,” explained VA Puget Sound American Lake Campus MST Coordinator Jeanette Guillaume Marshall. “Building on this year’s theme, Finding your path to Healing, our VA Puget Sound providers can help you navigate options, partner with you on what course is best for you and facilitate connections with other Veterans who understand.”

Because everyone is unique, VA Puget Sound offers flexible treatment options tailored to meet each Veteran’s needs and preferences. Eligibility for MST-related care is expansive, and no documentation of the MST experience is required. Survivors do not need to have reported the MST experience at the time it occurred, to have sought care within a certain time frame or to have applied for service connection to receive this care.

VA Puget Sound offers many paths to healing for Veterans who have experienced interpersonal trauma, including MST, sexual assault, sexual harassment and intimate partner violence (IPV). Veterans are encouraged to raise their concerns with any provider they feel most comfortable with. If not already engaged with a mental health provider, Veterans can request to see a mental health provider through primary care or women’s health clinics. These providers will further assess Veterans’ needs and work with them to determine the best options to address those needs.

 There are a wide range of evidence-based therapies offered in individual and group treatment settings as well as psychiatrists available to help evaluate medication needs. Most mental health services offered by VA Puget Sound can be accessed virtually by phone or video. Veterans are also encouraged to explore group specifically for women and men who have experienced MST or IPV.

 There are more VA resources available than ever before to support healing, including the Beyond MST app. To get support or learn more, visit

Anyone needing immediate assistance related to domestic violence/intimate partner violence, should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

For more information about VA Puget Sound IPV and MST services, Veterans are encouraged to reach out to their existing mental health providers or contact one of following: MST Coordinators: Julia Sewell at 206-277-1816 or Jeanette Guillaume Marshall at 253-583-1930; and IPV Assistance Program Coordinators: Rebekah Barton and Katie Evans at 206-716-5784.

About VA Puget Sound:

VA Puget Sound provides comprehensive care to more than 155,000 enrolled Veterans across Western Washington with a primary care team at one of its care sites: two main campuses (American Lake and Seattle), seven outpatient clinics (Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, Olympia, Port Angeles, Puyallup and Silverdale) and two Community Resource & Referral Centers (Georgetown in Seattle and Renton). As the VA’s 4th largest research program, VA Puget Sound has research in virtually every major clinical department, including: TBI and multiple blast exposures; memory improvement and Alzheimer's Disease; PTSD and deployment health; Parkinson’s Disease; diabetes; cancer; substance abuse; lower limb prosthetics; genomics; and Health Services. Additionally, it has seven nationally recognized Centers of Excellence (in areas from limb-loss prevention and prosthetic engineering to primary care education and substance abuse treatment). For more information visit or call 800-329-8387.  For Veterans in Crisis, please use the Veterans Crisis line at 988 (press 1).