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Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group

Military Sexual Trauma Program

 

Introduction

   A number of veterans, both women and men, may have experienced sexual trauma while they served on active military duty. Law defines sexual trauma as:  Sexual harassment, Sexual Assault, Rape and other acts of violence.  It further defines sexual harassment as repeated unsolicited,  verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, which is threatening in nature.

Many veterans have never discussed the incident or their medical or psychological condition with anyone.  Yet, these women and men know that they have "not felt the same" since the trauma occurred.  Unfortunately, this is a common reaction to an incident of sexual trauma.  

  • Only 16% of rapes that occur in this country are ever officially reported.     
  • Many of the victims base their reactions on social misconceptions about those who have experienced sexual trauma.      
  • Nearly one-third of all trauma victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during their lifetime.      
  • Physical problems and a general feeling of "not feeling well" often accompany PTSD symptoms.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare professionals are sensitive to the aftereffects of sexual trauma and the impact it can have on a person's physical and emotional health.  Our clinicians understand the feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, anger, and embarrassment that victims of a sexual trauma can experience.VA provides eligible veterans confidential counseling and treatment for the aftereffects of sexual trauma.  

Many veterans who experience an incident of sexual trauma have had no professional counseling and may have misgivings about the need or purpose for talking about the incident so long after it occurred.  VA counselors know that people who have been traumatized can be successfully treated and that it is important to the overall health of the survivor to talk through these upsetting and terrifying experiences. 

In addition to counseling, related healthcare services are also available at VA medical facilities.  It is important to know that sexual trauma counseling can be provided regardless if the veteran ever reported the incident.  

The Aftereffects of Sexual Trauma 

  • The  aftereffects of a sexual trauma can include:
  • avoidance of places or objects which recall memories of the traumatic incident  
  • feelings that something is missing or not right  
  • depression, alcohol and./or substance abuse  
  • suicidal thoughts  
  • recurring and intrusive thoughts and dreams about the trauma incident  
  • non-specific health problems  
  • relationship problems

VA medical centers have made structural changes and renovated areas to assure privacy for veterans.  VA healthcare professionals can help veterans better cope with the aftereffects of a trauma experience and help veterans regain their confidence, self-esteem, and quality of life.   For information regarding sexual trauma services, contact the Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator or Women Veterans Program Manager at your nearest VA facility or call toll free 1-800-827-1000.