IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) - April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the VA stands with Veterans who have survived Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
MST is not a diagnosis but rather an experience. It is not only sexual assault but any sexual harassment that occurred during military service. MST affects all genders, ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, and physical sizes and strengths. It has been prevalent in all branches and eras of service.
MST survivors frequently have difficulties with strong emotions, feeling emotionally “flat,” trouble sleeping, poor concentration, blaming self, substance abuse, self-harm, avoiding things that remind of the trauma, relationship difficulties, sexual difficulties, and physical health problems.
The national theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is “Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors.” It is important for survivors of MST to know they are not alone. The VA can help. There are outpatient, inpatient, and residential services available to assist Veterans in their recovery from MST. There is also a new support group at the VA specifically for men who are survivors of sexual trauma.
Free MST-related care is offered to all veterans even if they are not currently enrolled in VA healthcare. They do not need to have reported the incident(s) when it occurred or have other documentation to prove it. MST survivors also do not need to have a VA disability rating to be treated for MST.
Every VA healthcare facility has a designated MST Coordinator to assist Veterans in obtaining this sensitive care. The MST Coordinator at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is Sarita Gruszynski, LMSW. She can be reached by calling 1-800-215-8262 extension 32531.
To learn more about MST visit the VA’s MST website at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.