Meet Team HVAF: VP for Support BernieSeptember 11, 2023
130 veterans in need attend HVAF’s annual Stand Down resource fairSeptember 12, 2023
Military Sexual Trauma (MST), the term the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to experiences of sexual assault or harassment experienced during the military, sadly impacts a significant number of veterans. According to the University of Chicago, surveys estimate that between 23-71% of female veterans and 4% of male veterans report being sexually assaulted while serving our country. MST victims are also at higher risk for PTSD, depression, substance use disorder, physical health symptoms, and homelessness.
Each year, Congress requires the Department of Defense to submit an annual report detailing occurrences of sexual assault within the military and to report on progress made to prevent sexual assault and provide care for victims. In 2022, there were 8,942 reports of sexual assault made, which includes 7,378 service members reporting incidents that occurred during military service. This represents nearly 25 reports of sexual assault every day and is a 1.6% increase from 2021.
The 2022 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military details progress made on implementing several recommendations made by an independent review commission in 2021, which focus on prevention and improved response, including prosecution for alleged perpetrators. By 2024, the Department of Defense pledges to have Offices of Special Trial Counsel to take over prosecutorial decisions, a professional sexual assault response workforce to better assist victim recovery, continued focus on prevention initiatives, and completed on-site installation evaluations to identify and address challenges throughout the force.
In 2004, the Veterans Health Administration introduced universal screening for military sexual trauma. This type of trauma has long been associated with poor health outcomes, poor relationships with families, and lower quality of life. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry reported that in a large study comprised of over 600,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “a positive screen for MST was significantly and independently associated with post-deployment homelessness,” with more than double the rates of homelessness than veterans who did not experience military sexual trauma. 1.6% of veterans reported experiencing homelessness within 30 days of a positive screen, 4.4% within 1 year and nearly 10% reported being homeless within 5 years.
In addition to universal screening, the VA provides all physical and mental health treatment for condition related to MST free of charge. Assistance is available to all veterans at www.va.gov and www.vetcenter.va.gov.
Recognizing the link between MST and homelessness, HVAF’s on-site therapist provides trauma-informed care to victims of sexual assault. In fact, several veterans enrolled in therapeutic services over the last 12 months report having experienced military sexual assault.
We are so thankful to have Kascha on our team to provide trauma-informed care, and we commit to expanding therapeutic and substance use services for our veterans in the next several years. Please support the work we are doing to ensure victims of military sexual trauma receive the care needed to begin to heal.