Military Sexual Trauma


Information from the MST Support Team and the Department of Veterans Affairs


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 aster 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.

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: feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional reactions to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time
  • Feelings of numbness: feeling emotionally ‘flat’; difficulty experiencing emotions like love or happiness
  • Trouble sleeping: trouble falling or staying asleep; disturbing nightmares
  • Difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory
  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs
  • Difficulty with things that remind them of their experiences of sexual trauma: feeling on edge or ‘jumpy’ all the time; difficulty feeling safe; going out of their way to avoid reminders of their experiences; difficulty trusting others
  • Difficulties in relationships: feeling isolated or disconnected from others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures
  • Physical health problems: sexual difficulties; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; gastrointestinal problems

What Services are Available?

The VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment to male and female veterans 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 even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incident when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred.

Veterans can receive compensation for disabilities that began or got worse in the line of duty, including disabilities or injuries resulting from MST. When a veteran applies for disability compensation, VA must first determine whether there are current disabilities related to his or her military service. If there are, compensation is based on the current level of impairment. A Veterans Service Representative at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) can explain the compensation program in greater detail and assist you in filing a claim. For more information, call the VA’s general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000.


Resources for Military Sexual Trauma


San Diego VA Healthcare System

Please contact your Primary Care Provider or member of the OEF/OIF Care Team for a referral for military sexual trauma services available at the San Diego VA.

Primary Care Line
(888) 552-7475

OEF/OIF Care Team Contacts:

Mission Valley & Chula Vista:
Bridget Salzman, MSW
(619) 400-5271

La Jolla:
Rikka Bonnette, LCSW
(858) 642-3615

Patrick O’Shea, MSW
(760) 643-2079

DoD Safe Helpline
(877) 995-5247
Text: 55-247

Crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Individuals can “click, call or text” to receive anonymous one-on-one advice, support, and information 24/7.

Vet Center

Chula Vista Center
180 Otay Lakes Road, Suite 108
Bonita, CA 91902
(877) 618-6534

San Diego Center
2790 Truxtun Road, Suite 130,
San Diego, CA 92106
(858) 642-1500

San Marcos Center
One Civic Center Dr., Suite 150,
San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 744-6914

Temecula Center
40935 County Center Drive, Suite A,
Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 302-4849

Counseling is available free of charge for any veteran who was sexually traumatized while serving in the military. Services include individual or group counseling, marital and family counseling, referral for benefits assistance, liaison with community agencies or substance abuse information and referral.

Rape Crisis Center

Coastal Clinic
4508 Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109

East County Clinic
460 North Magnolia
El Cajon, CA 92020

210 S. Juniper Street, Suite 101
Escondido, CA 92025
(760) 747-6282

Operates a rape crisis center with a 24-hour hotline. Provides telephone crisis counseling to victims of assault, rape, and domestic violence. Offers hospital accompaniment services for rape victims.

My Duty

Provides information and guidance on reporting options and rights for survivors of military sexual trauma.

County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline
24-hour Hotline: (888) 385-4657

Offers telephone crisis intervention to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Provides information to victims, agencies, and other concerned parties about services available.

Guidance and Supportive Counseling
1963 Apple Street
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 757-3500

Operates a 24-hour crisis hotline and provides a range of counseling and supportive services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Offers telephone-based crisis counseling. Provides individual, group (including a group for children), couples, and family counseling. Provides advocacy and accompaniment to court and hospital for victims of sexual assault.