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The Basics of Military Sexual Trauma

MST

By Debbie Gregory.

Since the allegations of sexual assault in Hollywood have come to light, those events have spurred conversations regarding the pervasiveness of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

But what exactly is and isn’t MST?

The term refers to the entire spectrum of incidents from sexual harassment (repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character) through actual sexual assault and rape. It also includes unwanted sexual touching or grabbing, threatening, offensive remarks about your body or your sexual activities, and threatening and unwelcome sexual advances.

Physical force may not necessarily have been used, but coercion, threats or the pressure of negative consequences also qualify as MST.

It is not gender-specific, as the perpetrator and the victim can be of any gender: male, female, or transgendered.

Current figures provided on VA’s website are that 25 percent of women and one percent of men seen by VA healthcare report an MST history, numbers that are more than likely deflated due to under-reporting.

MST carries with it a shame and stigma for the victims, and men and women process the experience much differently. Male victims are more likely to question their sexuality and struggle with suicidal thoughts; whereas female victims are more likely to struggle with depression and social isolation.

It’s important to know that MST can occur on base or off base, during times of war or peace, while on duty or off duty. Perpetrators can be superiors or subordinates in the chain of command, or even civilians.

Even more important to remember is that MST is something that happened to you, it does not define you. It is not a diagnosis or a condition in and of itself.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

2018 Defense Bill Addresses Troop Size, Benefits, Sexual Assault

2018 budget

By Debbie Gregory.

Congress’ annual defense authorization bill addresses some of the yearly basics, such as pay benefits and insurance coverage, but also spells out the rules regarding the topical subject of sexual assault and harassment.

In the benefits department, there is a proposed 2.4 percent pay raise for active duty troops. The raise will be needed to cover the increased cost of Tricare prescription costs.

Military spouses who get a new professional license or certification after a PCS will be reimbursed up to $500.

To address problems with sexual harassment and assault in the military and at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, military sexual trauma counseling and treatment will be broadened to be more inclusive. Special victims counsel will receive training to better assist victims of sexual assault, with an emphasis on the male victims, thought to be much more common than assaults on females, but much less reported..

In addition to the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, a new article to the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding “wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images” allows anyone charged to be brought before a court-martial.

This comes on the heels of the scandal involving active-duty Marines who shared nude pictures of female colleagues on a series of military-themed web sites. More than 40 Marines received some form of punishment for their involvement.

Also addressed in the bill are: Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance payments, which were due to end this year, but now are permanent for surviving military spouses; troop strength being increased by 20,000, with about ¾ of the number devoted to active duty troops, and the other ¼ devoted to the Reserves; mental health assessments as a part of the separation physical.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: VA Expands Sexual Trauma Plan: By Debbie Gregory

MST

On December 1, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced expanded eligibility for Veterans in need of mental healthcare, due to military sexual trauma (MST).

MST is the name given to any sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred to a man or woman during military service. MST could refer to rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, but may also include any sexual activity performed against one’s will, either through physical force, threats of negative consequences, implied promotion, promises of favored treatment, or sex without consent due to intoxication.

In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health reported MST rates among U.S. Veterans returning from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be 15.1% among female Veterans and 0.7% among male Veterans. But it is widely believed that incidents of sexual trauma are largely underreported in the military community.

Under the authority given to the VA from the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, the VA will expand eligibility for Veterans in need of mental health care due to MST, to include more members of National Guard and Reserve units. This expansion gives the authority to offer Veterans the appropriate care and services needed to treat conditions resulting from MST that occurred during a period of inactive duty training.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald met last week with Ruth Moore, name giver of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013. Moore is a Navy Veteran and MST survivor who was raped twice while in the service. The Ruth Moore Act passed in the House, and is currently in the Senate, and if passed, will make provisions for MST victims, including treatment for PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Moore will be working with the VA to ensure that MST survivors are treated fairly and compassionately, and that Veterans who experienced MST have access to medical and psychological care.

The VA is working to ensure that all healthcare services are provided to assist Veterans recovering from experiences of MST. Every VA healthcare facility has an MST Coordinator who serves as a point of contact for MST-related issues.

All VA healthcare resources for mental and physical health conditions related to MST are provided free of charge. Veterans do not need to have a service-connected disability or be seeking disability compensation to be eligible for MST-related counseling and care. Veterans also do not need to have reported such incidents to the Department of Defense, or possess documentation or records to support their assertion of having experienced such trauma. And Veterans don’t need to be enrolled in the VA healthcare system to qualify for MST-related treatment.

Veterans can learn more about the VA’s MST-related services online by visiting www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.

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Military Connection: VA Expands Sexual Trauma Plan: By Debbie Gregory