VA Maryland Health Care System
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness of what sexual assault and sexual harassment is. In short, sexual assault describes circumstances during which someone is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will in non-consensual sexual touching. While numerous kinds of contact and behaviors can be characterized as sexual assault, some forms of it include attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, being forced to perform sex acts. Although Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is sexual assault that happens during military service, it carries heightened ramifications since often, the behavior is repeated and it can be ongoing throughout service. MST affects both men and women; about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men seen for VA health care report a history of MST when screened by a VA provider.
At the VA, Veterans who survived MST have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery. "People who have experienced MST often have a variety of problems afterward," says Dr. Christine Calmes, the new MST coordinator at the VA Maryland Health Care System. "Those problems can range from depression, substance abuse issues, relationship problems, PTSD, low self-esteem, among others. My job is to connect Veterans struggling to overcome MST with the services that can help them recover," she says.
Another part of her job is to ensure that other clinicians understand the aftereffects of MST and also know what services are available to Veterans seeking help. MST-related treatment is available at all VA medical facilities and all treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services and a service connection rating is not required. No documentation of MST experiences is required.
Dr. Christine Calmes can be reached at 410-642-2411, ext. 5894. Those wanting more information can visit the MST Resources Homepage at http://vaww.mst.va.gov. This video offers more info about MST: https://youtu.be/b9snig5gZfk .