Military Sexual Trauma
In the years since the end of the Persian Gulf War, awareness has grown out of the stress experienced by women serving in the armed forces, including both stress related to military service itself and stress related to sexual harassment and abuse. The stressful experiences of women serving in the military have been a focus of increasing concern. Both duty-related and sexual stress were found to contribute separately and significantly to the development of PTSD. Sexual stress was found to contribute four times as influential in the development of PTSD as duty-related stress.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) includes insulting sexual comments, unwanted sexual advances, or even assault. Being a victim of MST can leave women feeling alone, depressed and anxious. It can be very hard for women with young children or elderly parents to be deployed for long periods of time. After returning home, some women find it hard to return to the “mommy role.” A common experience reported by women veterans on homecoming is being stigmatized in stereotypic fashion as either “whores or lesbians.”
There is hope, support from family and friends appear to play a major role in averting the development of PTSD. Women who reported that they had close friends and family were less likely to have symptoms of PTSD. Treatment is available, correct assessment is essential to effective treatment. It is important for the returning women veterans to feel that they can rely on others to assist them with tasks in times of need. A high level of social support and services protect against the development of PTSD in all veterans (female or male).