Just the Facts, Betty
Women Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma
How our women in uniform are suffering
By: Kelly Keenan Trumpbour
Of the 60,000 veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007, 22 percent were women who suffered from “military sexual trauma,” a term used to describe sexual assault or harassment suffered while serving in the military.
Just imagine trying to survive in a war zone, trying to protect the friends and colleagues serving with you, and trying to return home to the family you left behind. Now add predatory behavior from fellow soldiers or commanding officers, the fear of retribution if you speak out, and being forced to depend on the very people who attacked you to protect you on the battlefield, and you can begin to imagine the hell these women live while defending their country.
For many, the aftermath of the experience is just as daunting as living it. These women often suffer from nightmares, low self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts and an inability to leave their homes. While many victims of sexual assault suffer from PTSD, a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine found that women who experienced military sexual trauma were nine times more likely to develop PTSD than other victims of sexual assault. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers counseling services for military sexual trauma survivors through their Women’s Veterans Program, but for many it is not enough.
For any of our readers who have served in the military, we want to know what you think can be done to help these women and to prevent it from happening to others.
How can we protect our women veterans from the pain and suffering of military sexual trauma?