September 16, 2021

U.S. Veterans

U.S.A Veterans News, Support & Information

Veteran Sexual Trauma Victims: You Are Not Alone

3 min read

After Mary experienced Military Sexual Trauma, she was afraid to report it. She thought she was alone. She got help at VA and now wants to get the word out to other Veterans about MST coordinators.

By Grant O’Neal. PhD., MST Coordinator – Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mary spends her time raising three children and volunteering to serve other Veterans. Her father was a Vietnam Vet.  She loved soccer and Barbie dolls.  But, her love of the military began when she was in ROTC. She loved the lifestyle and the discipline.  She enlisted in the U.S. Army immediately after she completed school.  During her four years in the Army, she was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions. 

She is not alone.

What Mary experienced is called Military Sexual Trauma, otherwise known as MST. She was afraid to report what happened to her.  She was blamed for what happened to her.  Her command turned away.  So she soldiered on.  But she was assaulted at her next duty station, and the next.  She thought she was alone. 

She is not alone.

After experiencing MST, Mary says she felt “dirty” and confused. Her sense of self-worth plummeted.  She withdrew -“I didn’t want friendships-I didn’t want to trust anybody.”  She felt anger and hatred.  She panicked when confronted with reminders of the MST-the smell of cigarettes and alcohol, music that was playing at the time, and men.  She avoided the mess hall.  She went for supplies when she was less likely to be confronted by her attackers, or anyone who might be her next attacker.  Mary blamed herself – “Maybe if I hadn’t been so polite, maybe if I wore different clothes….”  She wasn’t able to have sex without using alcohol. 

She is not alone.

Mary’s family and friends told her they saw that “something is wrong” and encouraged her to seek help. This irritated her.  “I was in denial,” Mary says. “I thought I’m in control.”  But then, Mary says, she began to forget things and was crying frequently. It had been seventeen years since she was assaulted.  So she reached out. She sought help. 

She is not alone.

Mary was surprised when she met her providers. “I’m not a number.  Because I was embarrassed and thought I was trash, I thought they would think that, too.  But, my doctor was caring. Everybody was.  I was a person to them,” Mary paused, “That means a lot.”   Mary says her life has changed since seeking help.  “I’m happier and my thinking is clearer.  I’m more outgoing…more active.  I enjoy things more and I’m less angry.  I’m not as paranoid.”  She says her providers “gave me great guidance… I wish I’d come earlier.” 

She is not alone.

Mary also says, “There are a lot of people who were my stepping stones and they still are.” Now, Mary is dedicated to serving Veterans.  And she wants to get the word out about MST.  Women and men have experienced Military Sexual Trauma.  There is an MST Coordinator at every VA facility.  Medical and Behavioral Health Services related to MST are free of charge.  And you may be eligible for treatment even if you don’t otherwise qualify.  If you have experienced MST and are having mental health or physical health problems, please call or come to your VA medical center. 

You are not alone.

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