Chriss Washington

Addressing the Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Among Active-Duty Service Members


This capstone presentation will explore the prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) among active-duty service members. MST is classified as sexual assault and/or sexual harassment that occurred while a service member was in the military. MST is a trauma that is overlooked in the military across all branches. Unresolved MST impacts thousands of service members, which can lead to a cycle of depression, PTSD, and a variety of other mental health disorders. In essence, service members defend America, but who is defending them while they are on active duty? Why are the rates so high and what is done when it occurs? What safeguards are in place to stop MST from happening? Has military culture and socialization produced a negative environment that, in essence, does not offer safety and support to MST? The following questions will display why a shift in military culture is needed to combat MST. There are several barriers that add to the prevalence of MST. The barriers include lack of options to report sexual assault, fear of retaliation, rank, gender/sex, ethnicity, and command locations. MST is not recognized as a diagnosis, but it can have an impact on service members’ overall health and quality of life. The prevalence of MST can be reduced once ALL service members have access to quality mental health treatment and lack of barriers to feel safe to report.


Chriss Washington is an Associate Licensed Social Worker (ASW) in the state of California who specializes in working with active-duty service members and their families. She is a Navy veteran, having served in the military from 2010-2022. Chriss graduated from University of Arkansas with her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work in 2010 and joined the Navy shortly after. While serving in the Navy, Chriss was also a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR-VA). She also gained her Master of Social Work in 2022 at Arizona State University. Chriss is now a doctoral candidate at University of Kentucky projected to graduated May 2024. She currently works at Fleet and Family Support Program as an associate therapist providing individual therapy to active-duty members and their families. Chriss has always had a passion for serving others. Throughout, her career, Chriss has demonstrated a passion for safeguarding survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) by implementing crisis intervention and providing access to vital resources. Her therapeutic approach encompasses a blend of modalities such Empowerment Therapy, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Solutioned-Focused Therapy. Her continuing objective is to provide each client with high-quality care via a solution-focused and culturally competent perspective. Chriss’s research addresses the prevalence of MST and access to mental health treatment for survivors of MST. Her capstone research will delve into certain aspects of military culture by utilizing systems and feminist standpoint theories to gauge change and reduce MST occurrences.