SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Many women serving our country are returning home with more than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s a condition called military sexual trauma, or MST, and it can have as much of a negative impact on the lives of service members as PTSD.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one in four women veterans say they have experienced MST – a problem causing severe PTSD, but the VA wants victims to know they are not alone.
A San Diego veteran, who asked to remain anonymous, is one of the many women raped while serving her country.
“In 2007, I experienced actual sexual assault by fellow service member. You are away from everything. It’s high stress and aggression leads to some really poor choices,” she said.
For the military veteran, MST ruined a meaningful relationship. “If my husband touched me I cried. If he didn’t’ touch me, I cried. Trust is gone.”
Her MST caused her PTSD and experts said it is more common to see female service members come home with MST.
“Military sexual trauma is pretty common among women. It also happens to men,” said Dr. Sonya Norman, Ph.D psychiatrist.
Maria Alcazar was also raped while in the military. Her PTSD made it hard to keep a job. She ended up homeless with two young boys.
“I got assaulted by police officers. That’s just the truth about it,” she said.
According to Dr. Norman, women who have been through MST can have more severe PTSD and may be more isolated, depressed and harder to treat.
"It’s hard to have hope that you can feel better, but we do have treatments that work for a lot of people that are available to women here,” she said.
The San Diego veteran said receiving treatment from the VA changed her life for the better.
"If you know someone that is going through some trauma, just support them and get the help they need,” she said.
The VA said it has many resources and treatment options available to those with MST and PTSD.
If you would like more information on how the VA can help, visit: sandiego.va.gov.