In the last year, many women and men have spoken up publicly about being sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.
Many Veterans of all backgrounds have had unwanted sexual experiences during their military service or at other times. Because of this, public discussions about these topics may bring up painful memories and feelings. Even if you think the public discussion is a good thing, it may still be difficult.
Common Reactions to the Public Discussion
You may notice more sudden, strong emotions; images of your own sexual assault or sexual harassment experiences; trouble concentrating; poor sleep or nightmares; feeling helpless, anxious, or depressed; or other changes. This is normal, and it does not mean there has been a setback in your recovery.
Remind yourself it is okay to feel upset.
It is very normal to have more struggles than usual, and you may need to spend more time doing things that help you support and care for yourself. You might consider downloading a smartphone app that teaches coping strategies. See examples at the LINK VA App Store.
Limit exposure to media.
Notice how the news or social media stories are affecting you, and if need be, limit how much you look at them. You can also focus on reading the stories that give you hope or make you feel supported, and avoid the rest.
Spend time with people you enjoy. This helps everyone get through tough times. Even if you do not tell others about your own experiences of sexual assault or sexual harassment, it can still help to be with others. You can say, “I’m having a rough time right now,” without sharing details if that feels right. Or, you can spend time with someone without telling them that you are struggling.
There are many resources available to you:
· Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network* (RAINN) carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
· DoD Safe Helpline. provides confidential one-on-one assistance for individuals who have experienced military sexual trauma, rape, or domestic violence. Call or text 1-877-995-5247 to talk with someone 24/7.
· Free VA Services for Veterans who have experienced MST (regardless of whether they have a VA disability rating).
· Every VA health care facility has a MST Coordinator who can answer any questions Veterans might have about VA’s MST-related issues and help Veterans access VA services and programs.
· Find VA PTSD Treatment programs with our PTSD Program Locator.