What is military sexual trauma (MST)?
Military sexual trauma (MST) is a term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military. MST refers to any type of sexual assault, including sexual harassment, that occurred while the survivor was in the military. MST can happen to any service member during times of war, peace, and even during military training activities. In addition, the perpetrator can be a civilian or a service member and be of the same gender as the survivor.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Exam
A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or (SANE) is a member of the civilian hospital response team and is there just for you. A SANE is a specially trained nurse in forensic evidence collection who evaluates health risks associated with sexual assault and provides the appropriate treatment. If you choose to have evidence collected a SANE will complete the forensic evidence collection.
Federal legislation mandates that, regardless of whether or not a victim chooses to make a report to law enforcement, s/he has a right to seek a forensic medical examination following a sexual assault at a local hospital free of charge. In Minnesota, the county in which the sexual assault occurred is responsible for covering these costs. Emergency contraception and prophylatic treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis is also covered by the county in which the sexual assault occurred . CMSAC is available to assist a sexual assault victim in applying for Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations funding for any other costs, related to the assault, that are not covered by the county. If you choose to go to your local hospital to be seen after a sexual assault, you can request that an advocate be present to help you understand your options and to support you.
Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Exam
A Sexual Assault Forensic Examination or (SAFE) Exam follows the same process as a forensic evidence collection exam completed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), during the civilian hospital response. If a service member goes to a military hospital to complete a forensic evidence collection exam, the correct military term for this exam would be a SAFE exam.
Military Reporting Options
Restricted Reporting- Restricted reporting is a confidential report process which may be used by a service member when disclosing a sexual assault to a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) advocate. Once a MST survivor and/or their military dependents, aged 18 years or older, decide to make a restricted report, any details given to the healthcare personnel, the victim advocate, or the SARC will not be reported to law enforcement to begin an official investigation, unless the survivor consents to reporting to law enforcement or if the Department of Defense (DOD) exercises an established exception on the case. If the survivor decides to complete a SAFE exam, the forensic evidence collected during this exam will be stored for 5 years.
Military Personnel Authorized to Accept a Restricted Report
- Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC)
- Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Victim Advocate
- Healthcare Personnel Authorized to Accept a Restricted Report
Unrestricted Reporting- Unrestricted reporting is a process that is not confidential in nature, but is an option that a service member may choose. Once a MST survivor decides to make an unrestricted report, any details about the sexual assault given to the healthcare personnel, the victim advocate, the SARC, or the command authorities are reportable to law enforcement and can be used to begin an investigation. In addition, any information obtained is forwarded to the command and may be referred to the military criminal investigative authorities. Record of the sexual assault and subsequent investigation may be kept for 50 years by the Military Criminal Investigative Organizations (MCIOs) from the date the investigation closed.
For questions about military reporting options or about the military justice process, please call:
DOD Safe Helpline 1-877-995-5247 or text 55-247
*The DOD Safe Helpline does not take reports, but will outline options*
Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (available 24/7)
CW3 Jennifer Diaz-Army and Air National Guard (612)-208-5299
How does CMSAC help survivors of military sexual trauma (MST)?
If you or someone you know is not sure what to do after experiencing MST, you may want to consider speaking with a civilian sexual assault advocate. CMSAC provides confidential and free services to both primary (i.e. the survivor) and secondary (i.e. those who know or care for the primary) survivors that have experienced some form of sexual violence. CMSAC advocates can help you identify your options and provide support after military sexual trauma (MST) has occurred. CMSAC advocates can accompany survivors of MST to the hospital and if deciding to report to law enforcement after an assault has occurred.
The Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center
15 Riverside Drive NE St. Cloud, MN 56304
(320)251-4357 (24/7 crisis line)
VA Military Sexual Trauma Counseling Program
Any service member who was sexually assaulted is eligible for MST counseling services at the VA Medical Center under the VA Military Sexual Trauma Counseling Program. For more information on our local St. Cloud VA’s MST services, please call:
Joy Finkelson, MSW, LICSW
MST Coordinator at The St. Cloud VA Healthcare System
Any service member has the option to speak with a Chaplain after experiencing a sexual assault or MST. Any communication with a Chaplain is considered privileged and limits what the Chaplain can disclose to other individuals under the Military Rules of Evidence.
DOD Safe Helpline App
“The Safe Helpline App is a mobile application that allows you to easily create a customized self-care plan and utilize specially designed self-care exercises directly from a smartphone.
You can also connect to all of the other Safe Helpline resources (Telephone Helpline, Online Helpline, Responder Database, and Safe HelpRoom) directly from the App.
The Safe Helpline App is free and can be found in the Apple and Android App stores”
(search: DoD Safe Helpline). For more information on the DOD Safe Helpline App, please click here: https://www.safehelpline.org/about-mobile
“MaleSurvivor recognizes and respects the diversity of sexual abuse survivors and our supporters. The harm of sexual abuse crosses all lines gender, race, religion, age, nationality, socioeconomic class, or sexual orientation.
Through our informational programs and services, MaleSurvivor also helps the public and the media to recognize and understand males who have been sexually abused, and most important, promotes the actions we all can take to confront and fight the realities, and destroy the myths, of male sexual abuse”(malesurvivor.org).
Provides art therapy services to service members experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and isolation (arsbellumfoundation.org).
Acres for Life is a therapy and wellness center that focuses on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning services, traditional therapy services, and experiential therapy services. Acres for Life lists military services as a population they serve (acresforlife.com).
Military Protective Orders/Civilian Restraining Orders
As a MST survivor, you have the option to file for a civilian protection order (CPO) and/or a military protective order (MPO).
Military Protection Order (MPO)
A MPO is a written order that is typically signed by a service member’s unit commander or other commander that has authority over the service member. This MPO orders the service member to not have any contact with the survivor. The perpetrating service member is notified of the MPO in writing, orally, or over the phone. “An MPO shall remain in effect until such time as the commander terminates the order or issues a replacement order” (DoD 6495.01).
Civil(ian) Protection Order (CPO)
A civil(ian) protection order is a civil court order signed by a judge. There are two types of CPO’s: a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO) or an Order for Protection (OFP). A judge has the authority to decide whether to grant or deny the CPO or HRO/OFP. Regardless of the type of CPO, if the judge grants the HRO or OFP, the judge ultimately decides whether to order that the respondent or perpetrator have no contact, whether that is direct, indirect, or both, with the survivor. In addition, the judge ultimately decides whether or not the respondent needs to be ordered to stay away from the survivor’s residence. Finally, the judge has full discretion to order several other provisions.
*Civil(ian) Protection Orders (CPO) are honored on all military bases. However, Military Protective Orders (MPO) are not honored off base.*