What we heard about peer support for military sexual trauma

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What is peer support?

Peer support is the giving and receiving of emotional and practical support among people who share a common experience. It can provide many benefits to those living with a service-related mental health condition. Research has also shown that social support is an important factor in preventing or decreasing the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health conditions related to military service.

Why are we creating a peer support program?

Members affected by sexual misconduct often describe the isolation that they experience in trying to access support groups for sexual assault and online peer support through civilian service providers, as the specific military aspects of their experiences, the military culture, and the institutional response, have a significant impact on their lived experience.

Many people with lived experience and those who work to support them have requested the development of a peer support program for current and former CAF members who have been affected by sexual misconduct through their military service as outlined in the External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces report (the Deschamps Report) published in 2015.

In addition, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF’s research and consultations have also highlighted the need for this type of support. Budget 2021 has therefore provided funding for a joint DND-VAC peer support program.

This program fills a critical gap to support current and former CAF members who have experienced sexual misconduct during their service. The objectives of the program are to:

How we are developing the program

To develop a program based on the current needs of the military sexual trauma community, we held consultations in fall 2021 to better understand what the peer support program should look like.

In addition to consultations with people with lived experience, the program development process also involves engagement with subject matter experts in trauma, military sexual trauma, and peer support model development who continue to provide their expertise to the development process.

What we heard so far?

We have analyzed the consultation data and identified the following key themes and recommendations. A complete report on what we heard from the consultation process has also been published.

MST Peer Support Program Consultations

Participant feedback at a glance

Consultations were held in order to create a peer support program that is representative of the needs of current and former CAF members who have experienced MST. While the engagement process began with 55 participants who initially volunteered, 26 were not in a place to participate due to their trauma or timing.


Situational flexibility

Views on the need for co-facilitators for group sessions were divided. Some indicated a need for mental health professionals to assist and others indicated preferring no professional support.


Broad communications efforts

Many were not aware of available resources after their traumatic event and hope to prevent this from happening to others.

Screening process

Safe and inclusive intake process with thorough peer supporter screening

Flexibility was viewed as essential and participants want the choice to engage in a process that best meets their needs.

Program delivery

Choice of format

Interest in various formats included in-person and virtual engagements for one-on-one meetings and small group sessions.


Confidential, discreet, and independent of the chain of command and the CAF rank structure

Importance of safety from further institutional harm and perpetrators that inflicted trauma was emphasized.


Peer supporters training in mental health, trauma, boundaries and ethics

Many indicated they would prefer to speak to a peer supporter with lived experience of MST.


Respondents had the option of responding to all or some of the questions and in the format of their choice such as: a written submission, a one-on-one interview, or a small group format.


27 respondents

  • English: 93%
  • French: 7%

Sexual orientation

27 respondents

  • Left Blank: 11%
  • Gay: 4%
  • Lesbian: 4%
  • Bi-sexual: 7%
  • Queer/Bi-sexual: 7%
  • Heterosexual: 67%


27 respondents

  • Male: 11%
  • Female: 89%


27 respondents

  • Retired Senior Officers: 4%
  • Senior Officers: 11%
  • Junior Officers: 15%
  • Senior Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs): 15%
  • Junior NCMs: 55%


27 respondents

  • 24 to 34: 19%
  • 35 to 49: 37%
  • 50 to 64: 37%
  • 65 and up: 7%

ElementFootnote *


28 respondents

  • Air Force: 11%
  • Navy: 11%
  • Army: 74%
  • Both Air Force and Navy: 4%


Visible minority

27 respondents

  • Yes: 11%
  • No: 81%
  • Other: 4%
  • Prefer not to say: 4%


27 respondents

  • Atlantic: 11%
  • Western: 22%
  • ON/QC: 63%
  • Other: 4%

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