Young female veteran covering her face while dealing with the effects of sexual assault

Lasting Effects of Military Sexual Trauma | VetLaw

Legally reviewed by


  • Veterans who have experienced non-consensual sexual from a fellow service member while serving may qualify for a Military Sexual Trauma claim
  • Sexual violence and harassment are ongoing issues in every branch of the military, and they are perpetrated and experienced by service members of all backgrounds
  • The VA provides benefits to survivors of Military Sexual Trauma for psychological and physical harm caused by the assault
  • Evidentiary standards for service connections in claims involving Military Sexual Trauma are more lenient

Veterans not only face combat injuries in the course of their duties but military sexual trauma as well. Men and women who serve our country can experience military sexual trauma in many aspects of the various military branches and contend with harmful consequences as a result. 

Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma in the course of their service and developed harmful health conditions such as PTSD or depression as a result may be eligible for VA disability benefits.

If you are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces and have experienced military sexual trauma during the course of your service, consider contacting an accredited VA lawyer at VetLAw about your eligibility for VA benefits. 

We can be reached by filling out a contact form on our website or by calling (336) 355-8387. With the help of VetLaw’s experienced veteran sexual trauma lawyers, you can rest assured that your VA claim is in capable hands. 

Defining Military Sexual Trauma

The term military sexual trauma is used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to refer to sexual abuse, assault, and harassment of servicemen and servicewomen. Military sexual trauma can encompass a variety of behaviors demonstrating sexual misconduct. Some common examples may include:

  • Any sexual acts carried out without consent
  • Unwanted sexual remarks, threats, or advances
  • Physical touching or grabbing of a sexual nature without consent
  • Coercion or pressure to engage in sexual acts 

Military sexual trauma that involves the aforementioned violations can happen to members of the military regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, or rank. However, statistics indicate that women are the most highly affected demographic when it comes to military sexual trauma.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Abuse?

When someone is repeatedly subjected to unwanted sexual advances, remarks, comments, touching, or gestures that stop short of violently accosting them, then this is typically considered sexual harassment

The major component of this misconduct is the pattern of unwanted sexual behavior towards a person and the level of intensity not being as severe as a full violent assault but still deeply harmful in its own right.

Sexual assault, on the other hand, does not require a pattern of behavior. Instead, it involves someone physically overpowering or accosting another with sexual intent. This is often, but not always, a violent act that injures the other party. 

Regardless, sexual assault specifically involves unwanted physical sexual contact involving acts ranging from fondling to rape. 

Sexual abuse can be defined as the committing of nonconsensual sexual acts against a vulnerable person by another in a position of power. Sexual abuse can involve both sexual harassment and assault committed over a period of time. 

Prevalence of Sexual Assault and Abuse in the United States Military

The United States Military is currently undergoing immense changes regarding how it deals with the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in its ranks. This issue has long existed.

However, it has been ignored or outright swept under the rug to preserve reputations and avoid consequences. 

According to the 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members, 6.2% of women and 0.7% of men were estimated to have been sexually assaulted in 2018 for a total of 20,500 estimated sexual assault survivors. 

SAPR Reports on Sexual Violence

The United States Department of Defense has created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training program. The purpose of SAPR is to educate and support service members and veterans dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma. 

SAPR also conducts assessments of the prevalence of sexual assault in the military and provides reports on the details and statistics of this issue.

In the SAPR annual report of the 2022 fiscal year, it is stated that the Department of Defense received 8,942 reports of sexual assault that involved service members as the harmed party. This is a 1% increase from the previous year when 8,866 reports were submitted. 

Physical Injury Caused by Military Sexual Trauma

The obvious physical effects of military sexual trauma can range from temporary physical injuries like lacerations, bruises, and broken bones to long-term physical conditions that can affect survivors of military sexual trauma for life. 

Common examples of physical injuries suffered by survivors of military sexual trauma include:

Psychological Effects of Military Sexual Trauma

In addition to the harm done to a person’s body, military sexual trauma can cause psychological trauma as well. This psychological trauma can lead to the development of several mental disorders that require extensive treatment.

Some common psychological injuries suffered by survivors of military sexual trauma include:

Can Veterans Seek VA Disability Benefits For Conditions Related to Sexual Assault?

United States Military Veterans are eligible for VA disability benefits if they have developed a physical or mental health condition due to military sexual trauma. In fact, the evidentiary standards for claims involving military sexual trauma are not as stringent as others. 

Lower Evidentiary Standards For Military Sexual Trauma VA Claims

In many cases of military sexual trauma, survivors do not have sources of evidence directly referring to their sexual assault in service records. Due to this fact, the VA has lowered its evidentiary standards for proving a service connection

In cases of military sexual trauma, not reporting the sexual misconduct when it originally occurred and the length of time that has passed since the inciting event of the trauma does not exclude you from seeking VA disability benefits for a health condition you developed as a result. 

You do not need to have the military sexual trauma mentioned in your service records nor do you need a police report. However, you will need some documentation to establish that you are suffering from a condition related to military sexual trauma.

A diagnosis of your condition from your doctor as well as a nexus letter are essential for your VA claim. Additional evidence such as documentation of your treatment for military sexual trauma-related injuries can help.

You may also submit statements from colleagues corroborating your experience and documentation of the effects of military sexual trauma to support your claim. 

Contact VetLaw For Legal Help Securing Benefits For the Effects of Military Sexual Trauma

If you have been severely injured either physically or mentally as a result of military sexual trauma then consider contacting the accredited VA lawyers at VetLaw about your claim. 

Filing a VA claim for military sexual trauma to seek benefits for your condition should be a simple process. Unfortunately, many bureaucratic hurdles can lead to denial. 

The last thing any survivor needs is to go through the process of submitting evidence and reliving the situation, only to have their sexual trauma claim denied by the VA.

With the assistance of Military Sexual Trauma lawyers, your claim not only will be in the optimal position to successfully appeal but also get you the full value of the VA disability benefits you deserve. 

Consider contacting VetLaw to set up a free consultation on your military sexual trauma VA claim by either filling out a contact form on our website or calling VetLaw at (336) 355-8387.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I choose the gender of my C&P examiner for injuries caused by sexual violence?

Yes, the VA allows veterans undergoing a C&P exam to ask for a male or female provider if their disability is related to Military Sexual Trauma. This provision exists to ensure that veterans are as comfortable as possible, given the sensitive nature of the claim.

What should I do if the VA denied me benefits for a military sexual trauma disability claim?

First of all, if you filed a disability claim for a condition related to military sexual trauma before August 2018, you likely have grounds for an appeal if the VA denied your claim. MST-related claims can be complex, especially given the lower rates of reporting and limited evidence.

The VA has recognized this and started educating certain staff members on how to navigate and fairly assess claims based on military sexual trauma.

Even if you have filed a veterans disability benefits claim post-2018 and received a denial from the VA, that doesn’t mean your claim is undeserving of compensation. Get in touch with a veterans disability appeals lawyer about resubmitting your MST-related claim.

What are the signs of PTSD related to military sexual trauma?

There are some common signs of PTSD caused by sexual assault, although it can manifest differently depending on the individual. For example, their prior history with sexual violence and the level of support they have can play a role. Ultimately, a medical professional is the most qualified person to make a formal PTSD diagnosis. Survivors of MST may:

  • Exhibit either a strong aversion to sexual contact or engage in risky sexual behaviors
  • Abuse drugs and/or alcohol
  • Express shame or blame themselves for the assault
  • Self-isolate or disengage from activities they were previously involved in
  • Become preoccupied with safety and self-defense
  • Appear easily irritable or moody
  • Startle frequently at sudden movements or noises
  • Avoid certain individuals, locations, and conditions that remind them of the assault