Military sexual trauma (MST) is a term that has been formally defined by the United States Congress. However, policymakers, clinicians, and researchers often use different definitions of the term, which hampers efforts to provide accurate MST prevalence estimates, document its medical and psychological consequences, project need for resources to address the problem, identify cases, and provide appropriate treatment. MST covers unwelcome sexual advances, including sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, experienced by military personnel during military duty. Unfortunately, the term MST can easily be misapplied as a diagnosis, and is sometimes even incorrectly used interchangeably with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This article clarifies the importance of accurate definitions of MST and PTSD in assessing and managing the mental health consequences of these stressful life events. It also outlines the kinds of problems that may arise from unclear definitions and incorrect application of these constructs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health