The Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and the Need for Better Prevention and Support Services

The Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Disclaimer: This article discusses the sensitive topic of military sexual trauma (MST), which can be triggering for some readers.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is a pervasive issue affecting both men and women in the military. MST can include any unwanted sexual contact or harassment, from inappropriate touching to rape (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [VA], 2020).

This trauma can have serious and long-lasting effects on victims, including a higher risk of developing mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety (VA, 2020). Victims of MST are also at risk of physical health problems, such as chronic pain and fatigue, and experience negative impacts on relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers (National Center for PTSD, 2019).

According to a report by the Department of Defense (DOD), there were over 20,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the military in 2018, but many victims do not come forward due to fear of retaliation or a lack of trust in the military justice system (DOD, 2019; VA, 2020). This lack of reporting makes it difficult to identify victims and provide them with the support they need.

Prevention of MST is critical in reducing its incidence. The military has implemented prevention programs, including training for all service members on what constitutes sexual assault and harassment and how to report incidents (DOD, 2021). However, service members still report feeling unsupported and afraid to report incidents (VA, 2020). Thus, a culture change is needed in the military to support victims of sexual assault and harassment.

Support services for victims of MST are also critical in aiding in recovery and reducing the long-term effects of this trauma. The VA provides a range of services for victims of MST, including counseling, medical treatment, and legal support (VA, 2020). Additionally, many non-profit organizations, such as the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and the Military Rape Crisis Center (MRCC), provide support and advocacy for victims of MST (SWAN, 2021; MRCC, 2021).

In conclusion, MST is a serious issue affecting service members across all branches of the military. The effects of this trauma can be long-lasting and devastating. Prevention and support services are critical in reducing the incidence of MST and aiding victims in recovery. The military must continue to work towards better prevention programs and support services for victims of MST. By doing so, we can create a culture that supports victims of sexual assault and harassment and works towards reducing the incidence of this trauma.


Department of Defense. (2019). Annual report on sexual assault in the military: Fiscal year 2018. Retrieved from

Department of Defense. (2021). Sexual assault prevention and response. Retrieved from

National Center for PTSD. (2019). Military sexual trauma. Retrieved from

Service Women’s Action Network. (2021). Programs. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Military sexual trauma. Retrieved from

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