Today, we celebrate Veterans’ Day. Throughout the nation, we use this day as a way to honor all of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. This year, the celebrations will be different from years past, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At Blackburn Center, we believe that this is the perfect opportunity to start a discussion about an issue that affects millions of veterans: military sexual trauma.
Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to a broad range of sexual abuse and harassment that happens during military service. It includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of abuse.
MST is shockingly common, and affects both female and male service members. According to a study on military sexual trauma, in 2016 alone:
14,900 service members reported being sexually assaulted, including 8,600 women and 6,300 men
83% of victims did not report the crime in 2016
128,000 service members faced severe and persistent sexual harassment or gender discrimination (1 in 4 women, 1 in 15 men)
Service members who report sexual assault often face retaliation, with 1/3 of victims being discharged of making a report, usually within 7 months
Military sexual trauma can impact victims and survivors in a number of ways. In 2016 alone, 1,307,781 veterans sought care for issues related to MST. It is linked to:
An increased rate of homelessness, particularly for female veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Substance use disorder
Physical health problems, including chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and memory issues
This Veterans Day, we can do our part to support all veterans by raising awareness about MST. We can also advocate for change so that current and future service members don’t have to live with this reality — and to ensure that victims and survivors get the help that they need. One way to do so is to contact your United States Senators and Representative, and urge them to vote for bills that would help victims and survivors, such as the Supporting Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma Act of 2020 and the Military Justice Improvement Act.
Like everyone else, our service members deserve to live free from all forms of violence. As we honor the service of veterans, let’s take a moment to think about and act on this critical issue.
If you have been affected by military sexual trauma or another form of violence or abuse, we are here for you. Contact us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 to get help.