Female War Veterans Haunted By Sexual Trauma

Women may have acquired the privilege of joining the armed forces on equal footing to their male counterparts, however, a new study reveals that one in seven female Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking VA medical care, reported undergoing incidents of sexual trauma, such as, rape and sexual harassment during military service. Those reporting sexual trauma were three times more likely to suffer from depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, drug addiction or alcoholism, including other mental illnesses.

The medical records of 89,960 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who sought VA medical care between 1st October 2001 and 1st October 2006 were analysed by Joanne Pavao and colleagues. Pavao, a researcher with VA Palo Alto Health Care System's National Centre for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and co-author of the study says the findings reveal 14.5% (1,849) of women reported experiencing sexual trauma, as opposed to 0.6% (741) men. A similar study on all veterans, not just Afghanistan and Iraq released in 2007 found 22% of female opposed to 1% of male veterans reported sexual trauma, in VA health-care surveys conducted in 2003.

The rising number of sexual assaults in the armed forces has become an issue of concern for Pentagon. The office is making attempts to respond to and prevent such incidents by offering training for preventing military sexual assaults. However, this has proven ineffective, as most commanders do not support the programme, as well, more than half the victims fail to report such incidents. This is because most service women are afraid to report such assaults, since more often than not it involves a supervisor or someone from her own unit. Rather than face the sneers, sarcasm and ostracism for tattling on a fellow comrade, they choose to remain quiet instead of reporting such incidents.