Military sexual trauma

  • Friday, August 22, 2014

To the Editor:

Military sexual trauma (MST) is of great concern to the Department of Veterans Affairs and our veterans organizations.

If you are a female or male veteran who experienced MST while in the military such as sexual assault or sexual harassment get assistance that you deserve.

Don’t suffer in silence or isolation. MST includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will or may have been pressured into sexual activities with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster military promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex.

An MST victim may have been physically forced into sexual activities or may have been unable to consent to sexual activities, for example while being intoxicated.

Other experiences that fall into the catagory 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 affects a person’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Both male and female survivors of MST can suffer depression, anger and irritability, or have a feeling of numbness being emotionally “flat” with difficulty experiencing emotions like love and happiness.

MST survivors can have difficulty sleeping or falling asleep and experience disturbing nightmares, or have difficulty with attention, concentration and memory while awake.

Alcohol and drug problems are related to MST along with victims feeling edgy or “jumpy” all the time, with a difficulty feeling safe and a difficulty trusting others.

Difficulties in relationships such as feeling isolated or disconnected from others and trouble with employers or authority figures are often a result of MST.

Physical health problems such as sexual difficulties, chronic pain, weight or eating problems and gastrointestinal problems are caused by MST.

The VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment to male and female veterans for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST.

Veterans do not need to be service connected or have reported the incident when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred to be eligible for VA assistance.

Veterans are encouraged to apply for VA disability compensation for conditions related to experiences of military sexual trauma.

Veterans should contact their county veterans service officer or go to a service officer at a veterans organization such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the VFW, the Low Country Veterans or the American Legion.

Counseling can be obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at locations such as the Myrtle Beach Vet Center, please call 843-477-0177, ext. 2636 or call the VA general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000 or go to www.va.gov.

Greg Bennett

American Legion Post 69 Andrews

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