Military Sexual Violence

Military sexual violence, known as Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is any sexual assault or harassment occurring during military service. The U.S. Code defines MST as "physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment ["repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character"] that occurred while a veteran was serving on active duty or training for active duty."

(Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D)

According to the Department of Defense (DOD), an estimated 19,300 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010, and yet only 13.5% of survivors reported the assault. Military sexual violence impacts service men and women in the Active Duty, Reserves and Guard forces, as well as cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. military academies. Victim-blaming, lack of accountability and misogynistic climates are pervasive throughout the U.S. Armed Forces, preventing survivors from reporting incidents and perpetrators from being properly disciplined.

Military sexual violence impacts both men and women. Of the 19,300  estimated assaults in 2010, 10,700 victims were men, while 8,600 were women. While sexual assault and harassment are strongly associated with a wide range of mental health conditions for both male and female veterans, they are the leading causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among female veterans. Sexual violence is often a risk factor for homelessness among female veterans. Stress, depression, and other mental health issues associated with surviving military sexual violence make it more likely that survivors will experience high rates of substance abuse and will have difficulty finding work after discharge from the military. (Source)

Specific issues related to military sexual trauma include: feelings betrayal due to military culture which places value on teamwork and loyalty, feelings of helplessness (military culture places value on self-sufficiency and strength), and feelings of isolation since most MST occurs where the victim lives and works.

If you are an active duty member or veteran who has experienced military sexual trauma, know that there is help available. Please contact your local crisis intervention center for assistance. Crisis intervention centers across North Dakota offer free and confidential services to all victims of violence. For a full list of local crisis intervention centers, click here.

SAFETY ALERT: If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, call 911, a local hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.Escape