Military sexual trauma (MST) is trauma caused to a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member as a result of unwanted sexual or sexualized activity by another CAF member. There can be varying degrees and impacts of trauma.
(The above is the official definition endorsed by the Department of National Defence Terminology Board and the opening sentence of the Glossary of Terms 3.0 definition.)
MST is currently not listed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5-TR or ICD-11.
MST refers to any sexual or sexualized activity that occurs without the person’s consent, during their service as a member of the CAF, and the physically or psychologically traumatic impacts of this activity on the affected person. The spectrum of MST can vary from small impact to severe disorders.
Examples of sexual or sexualized activities without the person’s consent or where the person is unable to consent include (but are not limited to):
Taking part in sexual activities because of coercion or threat (such as threats to a person’s physical safety, reputation, or career progression, or threats of other negative treatment, if the person refuses to comply)
Any coercive situation where expectation of, participation in, or tolerance of, unwanted sexual experiences is used as a basis for work assignment or promotion decisions
Any situation involving comments, unwanted touching, grabbing, or sexual advances, including hazing activities or rituals
Sexual contact or activities while sleeping, unconscious, or any other circumstance where the person’s capacity to consent is impaired by drugs or alcohol
Sexualized comments or displays of pornographic or demeaning materials in the workplace
Repeated unwelcome requests for a sexual relationship
Witnessing any of the examples of sexual or sexualized activities in this list
Any unwanted sexual activity or display that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment.
Examples of MST impacts on the affected person include (but are not limited to):
Disturbed sleep or nightmares
Feeling sad or depressed
Disturbing memories of re-experiencing the event
Difficulty feeling safe
Feeling numb or without emotion
Feeling guilt or shame, anger or rage
Problems in work (such as reduced productivity, conflict with coworkers)
Problems in intimate relationships, and difficulty parenting
Problems with alcohol or drugs
Physical injuries or pain conditions, and
Reluctance to report for duty or to wear their uniform.