A note about this article
One in every three women and one in every fifty men have stated they have experienced sexual trauma in the military. It’s unfortunate that there is even a term for it, but this is referred to in courts and medical reports as MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
This article will go into how the US military currently states it deals with MST PTSD. We want to help you with your PTSD disability claim if you’ve suffered from MST. In the process, you can then work out what your next steps should be to get help moving forward.
In this article about Military Sexual Trauma (MST):
- What Is the Army’s Definition of Sexual Assault?
- What Is the Main Cause of Sexual Assault in the Army?
- Important Military Sexual Assault Statistics
- What Is MST PTSD?
- What Are the Most Famous Military Sexual Assault Cases?
- How Are Male Military Sexual Assault Victims Treated?
- What Help Can Veterans Get?
- Where Can I Go for More Information?
What Is the Army’s Definition of Sexual Assault?
The U.S. Code of Military Justice is explicit on what it considers to be sexual assault. While the laws go into more detail, they are lengthy. For the sake of summary, the military describes it in broad terms as:
- Committing a sexual act upon another person by threat, fraudulent representation, or pretense
- Committing a sexual act upon another person without their consent, including when they are unable to give consent due to any factor
- The army’s definition of rape includes sexually assaulting another person through force, fear, or the use of drugs
In the past, this has not only included penis-in-vagina sex. Precedents that exist where the victim has been affected by:
- Non-consensual oral sex
- Non-consensual anal sex
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Attempts to commit to any of the above that were not completed
The definition in this article is imprecise, and for a more detailed definition, you should read the US military’s code on the subject: 10 U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120.
What Is the Main Cause of Sexual Assault in the Army?
Kintzle et al discovered several possible causes for sexual assault in the Army. They were based on the idea of a systemic patriarchal dominance of the military.
The army encourages a culture of aggression and self-sufficiency. That makes sense and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the Army, after all. Kintzle et al argue that a side-effect of that culture is that people are encouraged to take risks to stoke these feelings.
When combined with cultural differences between people from different backgrounds, this can lead to dangerous situations. This includes men who feel a need to “prove” their masculinity or their heterosexuality by engaging in behavior that is unacceptable.
With the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy only recently removed from the military, there is also ingrained homophobia in the institution. This can exacerbate the situation to the extent of creating an adversarial atmosphere. In this environment, men do not want others to think of them as in “the homosexual group” and so they may act out.
Another issue is the fact that the institution attempts to teach service members to not have empathy for others. It does this to encourage them to act on a battlefield, but also allows them to think this way with someone else they know. This could even happen within their own ranks.
Finally, another problem is the lack of perceived support. Many individuals have heard of people who have gone forward with accusations of sexual assault, only for others to ignore them. They will fear that nobody will believe them and that they will end up being a victim of retaliation.
In this video, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about the VA Rating Formula for Mental Disorders and Disabilities like PTSD.
Important Military Sexual Assault Statistics
Sexual assault is a large enough problem in the military that studies show how widespread it is. Different groups have produced reports on the issue.
Department of Defense
In 2019, the Department of Defense produced a report on the extent it was aware of the issue. They admit that their own report is only on reported cases and that an unknown amount of sexual assault goes unreported every year.
In 2019, there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving military personnel. This includes cases where the reporter was the victim as well as cases where the aggressor was the subject of a criminal investigation on the matter. Of these, 6,236 of the reports came from military service members, suggesting that 1,589 did not.
In total, there were 6,888 reports of service members made as victims of sexual assault. This number is higher than the reports of sexual assault within the military. This is because 652 reports came in about incidents that occurred before members of the military entered service.
As part of the investigation, the Department of Defense also looked into complaints of sexual harassment at the same time. During 2019, there were 1,021 formal complaints that they recorded, and this was a ten percent increase from the previous year.
Finally, the DoD performed an anonymous survey in 2018 on the experiences of its personnel. It discovered that in only the previous twelve months, 6.2 percent of women and 0.7 percent of men had experienced sexual assault.
Conclusions From These High Numbers
From these statistics alone, we can see sexual assault and similar crimes are a problem within the armed forces. These numbers are much higher than in the general population. Thus, there are problems here endemic to the armed forces.
As of 2021, 61,000 veterans have raised successful claims with the military for compensation for sexual assault. It is rising fast, though, and has leaped seventy percent since 2010. This is an epidemic, and while we must stop the root problem, the victims also need help.
If you are a veteran with OCD and PTSD, you may be eligible for VA disability.
What Is MST PTSD?
Military Sexual Trauma Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (MST PTSD) is diagnosed in several ways. The symptoms are any significant psychological problem that may come about due to sexual assault while in the military. It is a very serious condition not only due to its symptoms but also because of the long-term effects and the risk that the perpetrator represents to others.
PTSD gives its victims relapses of unwanted memories and causes them to relive the event. For these reasons, it can be especially debilitating for years after you leave the service.
The issue often causes victims to change their habits and routines to avoid triggering these memories again. It can also lead to other issues, such as anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.
These signs are all things the Veterans Affairs organization looks for in how it offers compensation to those suffering. As with other mental health issues, sufferers receive questions on how the issue affects their daily life. The VA defines this from the point of view of logistical changes to their life caused by the condition.
What Are the Most Famous Military Sexual Assault Cases?
The 2012 film The Invisible War was a documentary about the experience of many soldiers that were raped while in the service.
The movie’s findings focused on a Coast Guard veteran named Kori Cioca. It explored her difficulties in achieving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The courts ended up dismissing her case on several occasions. The military policy was changed in some ways after the movie’s release.
Despite the documentary’s findings, many other veterans of all genders succeed in seeking benefits. If you need help in this regard, there are always options to seek legal advice from experts on the subject matter.
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It is not only women who have received attention for their situations, though. Over the years, several male victims have stepped forward to speak about their experiences. Many sites out there have chronicled men’s problems with speaking out about how the world has treated them and how PTSD from military sexual trauma affects them to this day.
Many of them have sought out benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, they did not report the incidents earlier. As such, many are having trouble getting what the government owes them.
There are options for these people to seek out compensation at a later time, but many end up needing legal assistance of some kind.
How Are Male Military Sexual Assault Victims Treated?
Many men who encounter sexual assault while in the military often refuse to report the issues. They do this as they are often afraid of facing stigma in the military and it affecting their careers for decades.
Unfortunately, research has shown that this can have significant effects on the victims. Male sexual assault veterans from the Afghanistan War era showed higher levels of negative mental health symptoms. Statistics also showed that, for males, sexual assault leads to severe mental health symptoms that require ongoing support.
The Veterans Affairs Department offers its support to all these individuals. Unfortunately, social and professional pressure prevents them from getting the help they need.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
For decades, the military did not even consider it a problem and did not keep records of the issue. Fortunately, that has changed, but it can still be difficult to get access to the correct level of support.
Male victims are often told they will not receive empathy. This is harder due to the forbidden nature of homosexuality in the military for many years. As such, this attitude still persists.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has led to victims receiving the wrong kind of attention. It leads to people labeling the victim as homosexual or perverted themselves, even when they are trying to seek help.
This lack of support can lead to men treating their trauma symptoms on their own. It is common for male victims to fall into drinking or depression. This can make it hard to hold a job or function in normal civilian life. Depression and unemployment work together to make a struggling vet’s life even more difficult.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
What Help Can Veterans Get?
The Veterans Affairs Department can offer several different levels of help to victims of MST PTSD.
The VA offers several resources for managing the stress that comes with PTSD. They also have a list of phone numbers that victims can phone. This assists individuals who are undergoing mental health issues at any particular time.
You can find more information on these specific telephone numbers, but they are not meant for long-term help for those suffering.
For ongoing issues, the VA is able to assist you by offering you benefits for any issue that qualifies as a service-connected disability. They will do this by determining if you are eligible at all first, then they will send someone to assess you. This will be a member of the VA who will judge how debilitating your issue is.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many C&P Exams for PTSD were conducted via Telehealth video calls. This is convenient because you don’t have to leave your home to conduct your assessment. Your interview takes about 4 phone calls to set up in order to talk to a specific psychiatrist from the VA, but that’s easier than traveling to the nearest VA clinic.
Your issue will receive a category of disability that usually relates to a part of the body and a percentage. This percentage relates to how debilitating the issue is and this will then factor into how much of a disability benefit you will receive.
If you have mental health issues, including MST PTSD, you should ensure that you have as much proof as possible about the issue. Unfortunately, this requires you to discuss the incident.
A professional individual from the VA will not need too much detail. Instead, they should ask you more about how it affects you on a day-to-day basis. If you have any paper statements that describe the incident, these may be easier to pass on than talking about them.
If you do not have any evidence such as paperwork, your claim may be more difficult but is still possible. This situation may need more of a detailed claim interview.
You can also gather evidence up to one year after the claim. So make sure to start a discussion with your physician or mental health specialist. They will be able to give you information they can provide ahead of time. If you keep a journal of your mental health events or progress, that will be useful in your C&P exam also.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Where Can I Go for More Information?
You should now have a much greater understanding of the difficulty veterans have with applying for VA benefits after MST PTSD. If you have also had trouble, understand that you are not alone and that there are people out there who want to help.
Our people are ready to talk to you about the issue, so pick up the phone and get in contact to speak to a trained professional. We are here to help and your call is confidential.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The Supreme Court ruled in December 2020 that there is no statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases in the military. It changed a previous law that put a 5 year limit on such charges. It’s not too late to apply for VA disability. We may not be able to bring justice from the event, but we can help you get a VA rating for the after-effects of what you experienced.
We have men and women on our staff who have helped thousands of veterans get VA disability for some horrible experiences. We can take the time to work with you and go at your pace to apply for a PTSD VA rating. We can also work with a trusted friend or spouse that is helping you out. Our help is free and our fees are only paid if you win your case.