What do We Know About Military Sexual Trauma?

SUMMARY: Seven scholars from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies were supported by the US Department of Defense to conduct a longitudinal study on the potential effects of sexual trauma in the military. The publication begins with a succinct introduction, highlighting the relevance of studying the effect of military sexual misconduct, as the health and social impacts for victims and perpetrators has the capacity to effect mission capability. The focus of the study is therefore limited to the “association of sexual trauma with health and occupational outcomes,” such as military operational readiness. Data was obtained from the Millennium Cohort Study, launched in 2001 to prospectively evaluate the impact of military service on the health of US Service members. This study examined the responses of 13,001 US service women from all military branches, with 10.5% reporting recent sexual harassment and 2.9% reporting recent sexual assault. The key findings were that women who experienced sexual misconduct (harassment and assault) were more likely to report poorer mental health and physical health and low work capacity due to poor emotional health.

The study goes on to determine:

  • Recent sexual harassment was associated with demotion (however, this association was not present for those who reported sexual assault).
  • Sexual trauma is a potential threat to military operational readiness.
  • There is an urgent need “introduce prevention strategies and services to reduce the burden of sexual trauma on military victims.”

SOURCE: Jeffrey Millegan et al. (2015) ‘Recent Sexual Trauma and Adverse Health and Occupational Outcomes Among US Service Women,’ Journal of Traumatic Stress 28(1) October, pp. 1 -9.

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