Military sexual trauma

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Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while a person was in the military, including any sexual activity in which one is involved against one’s will. The behaviour may include physical force, threats of negative consequences, implied promotion, promises of favored treatment, or intoxication. Other events that may be categorized as MST may include unwanted sexual contact, threatening, offensive remarks and unwelcome sexual advances. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the U.S. provides medical and mental health services free of charge to enrolled veterans who report MST and has implemented universal screening for MST among all veterans receiving VA health care.[1]


It is widely believed that the rates of sexual trauma are underreported in both the military and the Veterans Administration (VA),[2] In 2007, the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) reported rates of MST were approximately 22% among female veterans and 1.2% among male veterans.[3]

In 2010, AJPH reported MST rates among U.S. veterans returning from the recent wars in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, OIF) to be 15.1% among female veterans and 0.7% among male veterans.[4]

In 2011, 17 former service members filed a lawsuit accusing the Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that fails to prevent rapes and sexual assaults.[5] Panayiota Bertzikis, the founder of the Military Rape Crisis Center and Coast Guard rape survivor, was one of the leading plaintiff.[6]

In 2014, 196 female veterans who had deployed to OIF and/or OEF were interviewed and 41% of them reported experiencing MST. [7] In April 2014, The Service Women's Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America submitted a legal filing to the US Court of Appeals which claimed that:[8]

Widespread rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment plague the military, threatening the strength of the armed forces, undermining national security, and destroying the lives of survivors and their families. Nearly one in every three women is raped during her service and more than half experience unwanted sexual contact.

Moreover, of the 26,000 service members who reported unwanted sexual contact in 2011-12, fifty-two percent were men. These assaults often result in devastating, long-term psychological injuries, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sexual violence correlates with PTSD more highly than any other trauma, including combat.

Medical and mental health conditions[edit]

A number of medical and mental health conditions have been found to be related to the experience of military sexual trauma. Studies have found in large samples of veterans using VHA services that veterans who report MST are at risk for a number of mental health and physical health diagnoses, including PTSD and depression.[3][4] Additionally, one recent research study examined rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexual dysfunctions about OEF/OIF Veterans using VHA services, finding that a positive screen for MST was associated with being more likely to have a number of STIs and sexual dysfunctions among both men and women.[9]

Related legislation[edit]

On November 13, 2013, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand introduced into the United States House of Representative the bill to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to direct the Secretaries of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security (DHS) to require the Secretaries of the military departments to modify the process for determining whether to try by court-martial a member accused of: (1) certain UCMJ offenses for which the maximum punishment includes confinement for more than one year; or (2) a conspiracy, solicitation, or attempt to commit such offenses.[10]

On June 26, 2014, Rep. Dina Titus (D, NV-1) introduced into the United States House of Representatives the bill To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training (H.R. 2527; 113th Congress). The bill would extend a VA program of counseling and care and services for veterans for military sexual trauma that occurred during active duty or active duty for training to include veterans who experienced such trauma during inactive duty training.[11] The bill would alter current law, which allows access to such counseling only to active duty members of the military, so that members of the Reserves and National Guard would be eligible.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Military Sexual Trauma Program". Archived from the original on 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  2. ^ Turchik, J. & Wilson, S. Sexual assault in the military: A review of the literature and recommendations for the future. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 267-277
  3. ^ a b Kimerling, R; Gima, K; Smith, MW; Street, A; Frayne, S (2007). "The Veterans Health Administration and military sexual trauma". American Journal of Public Health. 97 (12): 2160–2166. doi:10.2105/ajph.2006.092999. 
  4. ^ a b Kimerling, R; Street, AE; Pavao, J; Smith, M; Cronkite, R; Holmes, TH; et al. (2010). "Military-related sexual trauma among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients returning from Afghanistan and Iraq". American Journal of Public Health. 100 (8): 1409–1412. doi:10.2105/ajph.2009.171793. 
  5. ^ Parker, Ashley (February 15, 2011). "Lawsuit Says Military is Rife with Sexual Abuse". 
  6. ^ "Veterans: Military rape cases botched". 
  7. ^ Yaeger, D; Himmelfarb, N; Cammack, A; Mintz, J (2014). "DSM-IV diagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder in women veterans with and without military sexual trauma". Journal of General Internal Medicine. 21 (3): S65-S69. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00377.x. 
  8. ^ Abbott, Ryan (5 May 2014). "Vets Claim Nearly 1 in 3 Women Are Raped During Military Service". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Turchik, J., Pavao, J., Nazarian, D., Iqbal, S., McLean, C., & Kimerling, R. (2012). Sexually transmitted infections and sexual dysfunctions among newly returned veterans with and without military sexual trauma. International Journal of Sexual Health, 24, 45-59.
  10. ^ Kirsten, Gillibrand, (2014-03-06). "S.1752 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013". Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  11. ^ "H.R. 2527 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Neiweem, Christopher J. (27 March 2014). "Submission for the Record of VetsFirst". House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 

External links[edit]