I enlisted in the Army in 2000 and served for five years as an Arabic linguist, including a year-long Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Sexual harassment was a chronic, if low-level, part of my military experience. When I brought it up, a frequent response from peers was that I should have expected that treatment in a predominantly male workforce and shouldn’t complain because it might “ruin a man’s career.” That reaction from my fellow soldiers was actually more upsetting than the harassing behavior itself – it made me feel isolated and alone.
High visibility news stories, such as those currently circulating about the Marine Corps recent photo scandal, can sometimes bring back painful memories or lead individuals to realize they are having trouble coping with a difficult experience. If you, or someone you know, are experiencing challenges related to sexual harassment experienced during military service, know that VA can help.
Care is provided under the overarching term Military Sexual Trauma (MST), which is defined by law as “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training.” Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”
VA screens all Veterans seen for health care for MST to ensure they are aware and offered free MST-related care