Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Did you experience any unwanted sexual attention, uninvited sexual advances, or forced sex while in the military? Does this experience continue to affect your life today?
Both women and men can experience sexual harassment or sexual assault during their military service. VA refers to these experiences as military sexual trauma, or MST. One in five female Veterans and 1 in 100 male Veterans have told their VA health care provider that they experienced MST.
MST also occurs any time the survivor isn’t able to give consent, such as while intoxicated or drugged, or when they are pressured into giving consent in exchange for promises of favorable duties or promotion, or threats of harm to their career. The perpetrator needs to be in the military for it to be considered MST.
Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively impact a person's mental and physical health, even many years later.
Some problems associated with MST include:
- Disturbing memories or nightmares
- Feelings of depression or numbness
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Feeling isolated from other people
- Problems with anger or irritability
- Problems with sleep
- Physical health problems
- Avoidance or fear of medical exams or procedures
VA has special services available to help those who have experienced MST.
Healing from sexual trauma is possible. People can heal from trauma. To help Veterans do this, VA provides treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. You do not need to be service connected and may be able to receive this benefit event if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incidents when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
San Francisco VA Health Care System has designated MST coordinators who serve as a contact person for MST-related issues. This person is your advocate and can help you find and access VA services and programs and community resources.
We has providers knowledgeable about treatment for the after-effects of MST. We offer specialized outpatient mental health services focusing on sexual trauma. VA Vet Centers also have specially trained sexual trauma counselors.
Each community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) has a designated MST contact person. Patients are welcome to call their clinic and ask to speak with the appropriate staff person listed below:
Clearlake VA Clinic - 415-221-4810 ext. 24035, Heather Raitz, LCSW (Acting)
Downtown VA Clinic - 415-281-5100, Alison May, MD
Eureka VA Clinic - 707-269-2827, Forest Harpham, LCSW
San Bruno VA Clinic - 650-615-6030, Anne French, LCSW
Santa Rosa VA Clinic - 707-569-2300, Monica Sanchez, PhD
Ukiah VA Clinic - 707-468-7735, Andrea (Annie) Richmond, LCSW
The Veterans Crisis Line is 800-273-8255 and press 1
For urgent needs, patients may be seen in the San Francisco VA Medical Center's Emergency Department (always open).
For information about mental health treatment, please call the Psychiatric Evaluation Services at 415-221-4810, ext. 26674. Service connection or disability compensation is not required to receive free treatment for conditions resulting from MST.