Sexual Trauma in the Military: Exploring PTSD and Mental Health Care Utilization in Female Veterans


This study examines the incidences of sexual assault in female veterans and the link between PTSD and using mental health services.



Sexual trauma remains a pervasive problem in the military. The deleterious mental health outcomes related to incidents of sexual assault have been well-documented in the literature, with particular attention given to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and utilization of mental health services. Much effort has focused on addressing issues of sexual trauma in the military. The purpose of this study was to examine the incidences of sexual assault in female veterans, the relationship to PTSD and mental health care utilization. The research explored differences in pre- and post-9/11 veterans. Data were collected using a 6-prong recruitment strategy to reach veterans living in Southern California. A total of 2,583 veterans completed online and in-person surveys, of which 325 female veterans were identified for inclusion in the analysis. Forty percent of the sample reported experiencing sexual assault during their military service. A history of military sexual trauma was found to be a substantial contributor to symptoms of PTSD. A majority of female veterans who indicated being sexually assaulted during their military service met the cutoff for a diagnosis of PTSD. Although only a minority of participants who indicated being a victim of sexual assault reported receiving immediate care after the incident, most had received mental health counseling within the past 12 months. Findings point to the need for additional prevention programs within the military and opportunities for care for victims of military sexual assault.

Full Reference

Kintzle, Sara,Schuyler, Ashley C.,Ray-Letourneau, Diana,Ozuna, Sara M.,Munch, Christopher,Xintarianos, Elizabeth,Hasson, Anthony M.,Castro, Carl A. Psychological Services, Vol 12(4), Nov 2015, 394-401