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Military Sexual Trauma - Topic Overview

What happens?

There is no set reaction to MST. You may feel fear, shame, anger, embarrassment, or guilt. You may have a response right away, or it may be delayed for months or years. You may feel sad or scared months or years after the assault.

After MST you may:

  • Avoid places or things that remind you of what happened.
  • Avoid your friends, family, and other people.
  • Have trouble sleeping or have nightmares.
  • Feel numb or feel nothing at all.
  • Have relationship problems.
  • Think about death or killing yourself.

Some people try to deal with their feelings by pulling away from other people, working all the time, or using drugs or alcohol. They also may feel depressed or have panic attacks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a sexual assault is common.

What can I do?

After a sexual assault, many veterans keep quiet. They worry what others will think of them, and that talking about the assault will hurt their military careers. But the VA can help.

The VA has qualified MST counselors at every hospital. Many Vet Centers also have an MST coordinator. This person can discuss treatment with you and help you find the services that best fit your needs. Many VA and Vet Centers offer services specific to men and women.

Counseling often is used to treat MST. Your doctor also may prescribe medicines that help with symptoms. Treatment can help you cope with trauma and regain confidence and self-esteem.

For more information, see the topic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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