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Erie VA Medical Center


Coping with Military Sexual Trauma

Dr. Jenkins, Erie VAMC Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator

Dr. Jenkins, Erie VAMC Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

According to a recent study, about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 100 men receiving VA health care reported experiencing military sexual trauma (MST) while serving.  Yet many incidents of MST go unreported.

"Unfortunately, shame and fear may keep people from seeking help," says Dr. Russell Jenkins, Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator at Erie VA Medical Center.  "It's important for people who have experienced MST to know they are not alone and that it is possible to feel better."

That’s where Erie VAMC steps in.  Erie VA offers free counseling and treatment to Veterans who've experienced any type of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while serving in the military, known as MST. 

Individual counseling, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) are a few treatment options that have been proven to be effective in helping patients confront and deal with MST.  These treatment approaches focus on helping Veterans develop coping skills to confront and deal with past experiences. 

Common issues MST survivors struggle with include:

  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Self-blame and self-doubt
  • Problems with sexual functioning and sexuality
  • Difficulty identifying and setting appropriate interpersonal boundaries
  • Fear for safety

"Distress from MST can present in different ways and spillover to disrupts patients' lives," says Dr. Jenkins.  "Treatment options help Veterans deal with core issues.  By confronting the experience, it is possible for Veterans to reduce distress and find peace again."

All Erie VAMC patients are screened for military sexual trauma.  The medical center provides free care for conditions related to MST even if Veterans are not otherwise eligible for VA services.  To help create a safe and comfortable environment, Erie VAMC also offers patients a choice as to the gender of their provider for individual therapy sessions for MST.

For more information about MST services, contact the Behavioral Health Clinic at 814-860-2038 and ask to speak with MST Coordinator Dr. Russell Jenkins. 

Additional MST Resources:

Military Sexual Trauma Overview

MST:  Stories from Survivors



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