VA Northern California Health Care System
Military Sexual Trauma
Did you experience any unwanted sexual attention, uninvited sexual advances, or forced sex while you were in the military? Does this experience continue to affect your life today?
What is Military Sexual Trauma?
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. It includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will - he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening and unwelcome sexual advances. The perpetrator does not need to have been in the military themselves.
MST can affect a person’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Some of the difficulties both female and male survivors of MST may have include:
- Strong emotions
- Feelings of numbness
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory
- Problems with alcohol or other drugs
- Difficulty with things that remind them of their experiences of sexual trauma
- Difficulties in relationships
- Physical health problems
What Services are Available?
Both women and men can experience military sexual trauma (MST) during their service. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma because we know that any type of trauma can affect a person’s physical and mental health, even many years later. We also know that people can recover from trauma. VA has services to help Veterans do this.
The VA provides confidential counseling and treatment at no-cost to male and female Veterans for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. Patients do not need to be service connected and may be able to receive this benefit even if not eligible for other VA care. The incident does not need to have been reported when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred.
With questions about services or contacts, call our NCHCS MST Recovery Coordinator: Catherine M. Novotny, PhD - 925-372-2554
In case of emergency, the Veterans Crisis line is (800) 273-8255.
For urgent needs, Veterans may be seen in either the David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB or Sacramento VA Medical Center Emergency Departments.
For information about Mental Health treatment in general, please call the Mental Health Service Triage staff available at each of our NCHCS locations.
VHA offers evidence based PTSD treatments, including Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR). However, much of the impact of MST is often seen in the form of depression, anxiety, problems in relationships, work or other such activities of daily living.
PLEASE NOTE: VHA Mental Health Service does not offer evaluations for the purposes of claims for Service Connection. For information on claims, benefits and other VBA administered compensation please contact your local county Veterans Service Office (VSO).
Contra Costa VSO - (925) 313-1481
Solano County VSO - (707)-784-6590
Napa County - (707)-253-4558
Sacramento County - (916)-874-6811
San Joaquin County - (209)-468-2916
Sonoma County - (707)-565-5900)
Trauma Recovery is possible. Contact us to learn how you can start the journey.
Outpatient Behavioral Health Bldg 24
Hours of Operation
8:00am - 4:30pm
Monday - Friday