Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

Support for victims of sexual violence, trauma continues year round

Image of Military personnel for a teal ribbon on a flight deck. Sailors assigned to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington form a teal ribbon on the flight deck for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April 26, 2021. The teal ribbon represents a symbol of support for the cause (Photo by: Navy Petty Officer 2ndClass John Bellino).

Bringing attention to and preventing sexual assault and military sexual trauma is an every-day, year-long goal. While National Sexual Awareness and Prevention Month is recognized in April, bringing attention to and preventing sexual assault and military sexual trauma is an every-day, year-long goal.

Some people may not be sure how to start fighting sexual assault in the military, but knowing where to find help and support is an important first step. Sexual assault can include unwanted or forcible sexual advances, touching, or any sexual activity that occurs without your consent. It also might include sexual harassment, inappropriate jokes and flirtation, pressure to engage in sexual activity, or rape.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of gender – whether the assaulter is someone you know, a stranger, or even your romantic partner.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is the experience of sexual assault within the military or among military personnel. According to the Department of Defense, MST includes sexual assault, sexual threats or harassment, unwanted touching or grabbing, or any sexual activity that occurs without consent during active-duty military service (regardless of location). MST also includes the trauma that a survivor might experience as a result.

Despite there being fewer women in the military, more female service members report experiencing MST than males. Still, it's estimated that about the same number of men and women in the military experience sexual assault during their service.

Impact of sexual assault on performance

Sexual trauma takes a terrible toll on people who experience it, and it can harm their mission performance. Common emotional responses after an assault – such as feeling depressed, agitated, upset, or angry – can impair a service member's ability to stay focused and alert on the job.

Other consequences of sexual trauma that impede performance include feeling 'numb' to both positive and negative experiences, nightmares, and trouble sleeping.

Survivors of MST can find it hard to connect to others, feel isolated or lonely and have a hard time developing trust with their partner. Since it can be very hard to address the feelings that come with sexual trauma, people often will engage in coping strategies that feel good right away but have negative long-term consequences. For example, some service members might use alcohol or drugs, which can further impede performance.

Get help

It takes a lot of courage to face or report sexual assault, particularly in the military. If you have experienced MST, understand you are not alone. It's also important to know what resources are available, so you can overcome any challenges that can affect your performance. With support and treatment, growth is possible after trauma.

If it feels hard to reach out, start by learning more about military sexual trauma.

Learn more about MST and support services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Military Sexual Trauma and National Center for PTSD web pages.

If you're ready to seek support, consider the following resources and services provided by the military.

You can access the Military and Veterans' Crisis Line for confidential, 24/7 phone support by dialing 988 and select Option 1. You also can access live help, individual and group online chat support, text help, or other self-care information with the mobile app.

The DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) offers many resources on reporting and support services. SAPRO also provides links to branch-specific policies and resources. Or visit the websites for the different branches:

Call or reach out to your branch Sexual Assault Response Counselor 24/7. Contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn more.

VA medical centers have MST coordinators who can guide you to specific resources and programs. Each center also provides information on onsite MST-related counseling services.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Jan 26, 2024

Conquering Winter Blues: A Personal Triumph

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlin Castillo, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, poses for a portrait illustrating seasonal affective disorder at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 17, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kaitlin Castilo)

When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins to slow, a silent snowfall signals the start of another isolated winter night. This is sometimes known as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Article Around MHS
Jan 12, 2024

Love, Death, and Regrowth

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley, a perianesthesia technician assigned to the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron, poses for a portrait at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Briley uses her personal experiences to help advocate for improved mental health, suicide awareness, and resilience amongst service members. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley met the love of her life shortly after arriving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, her first duty station. After her husband died by suicide, her path to wellness wasn’t a quick or easy one, but she was able to find support in the people and resources around her.

Article Around MHS
Nov 20, 2023

The Madness We Survive

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Matilyn Million, 6th Medical Support Squadron laboratory technician, stands next to her coworkers during a chemotherapy appointment in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 21, 2023. Million was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2023. She completed her 12th and final chemotherapy treatment on Sept. 18, 2023, and is currently cancer free. (Courtesy Photo)

A renewed spirit to resume the life she previously had consumed U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Matilyn Million as she closed her most difficult chapter. On Sept. 18, 2023, Million underwent her 12th and final chemotherapy treatment in Tampa, Florida.

Article Around MHS
Nov 1, 2023

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Champions Women's Health Care Options Using Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy Surgery

Dr. Candice Jones-Cox, the Women's Health Services director at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is all smiles after becoming the first surgeon in the Department of Defense medical community to perform a robotic minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. (Photo by Ricardo Reyes/Department of Defense)

When you meet Dr. Candice Jones-Cox, director of the Women's Health Services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, you will learn that she's a fierce patient advocate and a meticulous surgeon, passionately learning cutting-edge techniques to adapt to an ever-changing medical landscape. She's an obstetrician-gynecologist, highly adept at ...

Article Around MHS
Oct 26, 2023

One Team, One Mission: Nurses Supplement Active Duty Medical Personnel at Ramstein Air Base

U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation technicians and a nurse gather for a pre-brief before clinical simulator training at Ramstein Air Base

Two mental health nurses assigned to the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron trained with the Deployment Transition Center and the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from July 13 to Aug. 5, 2023, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. During that time, U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Waller and U.S. Army Maj. Anthony Niederriter brought the skills and perspectives of ...

Article Around MHS
Oct 19, 2023

Lights, Camera, Ultrasound! Uniformed Services University Nursing Students Train Using High-Tech Simulation Theater

The Uniformed Services University students from the family and women’s health nurse practitioner program attended the university’s Wide-Area Virtual Environment at the Simulation Center for the first time in Oct. 2023. (Photo by Tom Balfour, USU)

Military students from the Uniformed Services University conducted immersive medical team training in the university's Wide-Area Virtual Environment. The theater is a a state-of-the-art 3D immersive reality facility that simulates various scenarios, replicating environments from war zones to medical emergencies, to prepare them for real-world medical ...

Last Updated: September 28, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery