Sexual Assault & Trauma in the Military

Sexual Assault & Trauma in the Military

Not all Veterans suffer physical wounds on the field of battle. Unfortunately, many Veterans of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond experience a different type of injury in the form of military sexual trauma (MST). These injuries are very real, but they are often invisible to the plain eye. Making matters even more difficult, circumstances are frequently denied or shrouded in secrecy, with little effort taken toward sexual assault prevention.

The male Veterans and female Veterans who endure sexual violence have a right to receive benefits from the VA, just like Veterans who suffer openly visible injuries. Read on for more information about sexual assault trauma in the military and how service members can pursue an MST-related claim with knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys.

Sexual Trauma During Military Service Explained

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Military sexual trauma (MST) is psychological trauma that results from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment that occurred while a Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or in active duty training. 

MST is a serious stressor that may lead to physical and mental health conditions in men and women Veterans, including but not limited to PTSD and related symptoms.

Note that while annual reports and meta-analyses suggest that the prevalence of military sexual trauma is greater among women, both men and women can experience this type of injury. While there is an increased risk of MST perpetrated against women, all Veterans deserve social support from the Veterans Health Administration and other military support programs. They may also be entitled to benefits that can help cover inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Current Laws Affecting Sexual Assault Reporting

At the time of this writing, several laws affect sexual assault reports in the military. These include:

  • Mandatory two-year minimum sentences for members of the armed services who are convicted of sexual abuse or military sexual assault (MSA)
  • All decisions not to prosecute unwanted sexual contact by a commanding officer are automatically reviewed by another person higher in the chain of command of military personnel
  • According to the Department of Defense, it is a crime to retaliate against any military member who reports a rape or sexual assault, particularly through actions such as denying assignments or promotions to such an individual

These laws indicate a renewed focus on making it possible for military members to report sexual assault and related trauma if they see something, regardless of potentially repressive military culture. If you’ve experienced MST, you can also report the guilty party.

What To Do if You’re a Survivor of MST

Experiencing MST is difficult no matter your sexual orientation, gender, substance use at the time of the assault, or any other circumstances. However, you have some options if you have experienced MST as a Veteran:

  • You may ask for a bad conduct discharge to be upgraded if you are dealing with dysfunction under the effects of assault and/or posttraumatic stress disorder at the time of your bad conduct discharge
  • You can find a psychologist or psychiatry practitioner to do a full psychological examination if you’re a U.S. Military Veteran seeking mental health services for PTSD as a result of experiences of MST and be discharged due to a personality disorder that correlates with your experience of MST
  • You can gather all the evidence you can, such as video evidence, letters to an intimate partner, diaries or journal entries, records from the military health care system, poor performance reviews, records of sexually-charged hazing, and the like.

Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you gather the evidence you need to secure your case.

How the VA Handles MST & PTSD Claims

Unfortunately, the DOD and VA health care providers don’t always handle PTSD claims with the care they deserve, especially if those claims were due to military sexual trauma. You may get a rating using boilerplate language or terminology that denies you a service connection between your PTSD symptoms and your MST.

With the right attorneys on your side, you can make sure the VA handles your case properly and seriously and that you get the higher rate of disability benefits you need to counteract your PTSD symptoms and any mental or physical health problems they have caused or aggravated.

How Berry Law Can Help

Our knowledgeable attorneys are ready and able to assist with your benefits claim if your military sexual assault leads to PTSD or related symptoms. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and more information.


VA’s Polytrauma | U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Effects of Military Sexual Trauma | VA Mental Health

Military Sexual Trauma |

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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