HEALTH / WELL-BEING

The Influence of Military Sexual Trauma on Returning OEF/OIF Male Veterans

Article

This article examines how Military Sexual Trauma (MST) affects the post-deployment mental health of male veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq).

Abstract

Military sexual trauma (MST) encompasses experiences of sexual harassment and/or assault that occur during active duty military service. MST is associated with post-deployment mental health, interpersonal, and physical difficulties and appears to be more influential in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than other active duty experiences, including combat, among women veterans. Although some literature suggests that men who experience MST also evidence significant post-deployment difficulties, research in this area is lacking. The current study evaluated a large sample of returning male veterans (N = 961) who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Veterans were referred for treatment in a trauma and anxiety specialty clinic at a large VA hospital. Of this sample, 18% (n = 173) reported MST perpetrated by a member of their unit. Results indicated veterans who reported MST were younger (p = .001), less likely to be currently married (p < .001), more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder (p = .040), and more likely to have experienced non-MST sexual abuse either as children or adults (p < .001). Analyses revealed that MST was negatively associated with post-deployment social support (p < .001 and positively associated with post-deployment perceived emotional mistreatment (p = .004), but was not associated with post-deployment loss of romantic relationship (p = .264), job loss (p = .351), or unemployment (p = .741) after statistically controlling for other trauma exposures and current social support. Results reflect the detrimental associations of MST on male veterans and the need for more research in this area. These findings also highlight the need for treatment interventions that address social and interpersonal functioning in addition to symptoms of depressive disorders.

Full Reference

Mondragon, S. A.,Wang, D., Pritchett, L., Graham, D. P., Plasencia, M. Leili, Teng, E. J. Psychological Services, Vol 12(4), Nov 2015, 402-411