Two weeks ago, Kimerling et al (2008a) announced that 14.5% of veterans discharged from the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan reported some kind of military sexual trauma (MST). Women were far more likely than men to report MST (14.5% vs 0.6%), but "the relationship between MST and specific mental health conditions did not differ by gender with the exception of PTSD [Posttraumatic Stress Disorder], where women who had experienced MST were significantly more likely to have PTSD than men who experienced MST."
Kimerling's data comes from a recently adopted PTSD screening regimen in place at VA hospitals. As recently as 2001, 33-50% of VA primary care physicians did not routine screen veterans for PTSD (Young et al, 2005). Screening does seem improve rates of treatment. In an evaluation of the universal PTSD screening protocols, Kimerling et al (2008b) reported that universal screening increased access to care.
Something that bothers me: the news stories about this -- such as Reuters (2008) -- cited Kimerling as saying that her study (2008a) "did not determine when [the sexual trauma] happened". In most studies of sexual trauma, this would also capture childhood sexual trauma -- but Kimerling seems to be studying "military sexual trauma", which seems to be specifically trauma that occurs during service. If these screenings included all sexual trauma, 14.5% would be a lower rate than the general population of women. I have to wonder if the environment at the VA makes women (and men) less likely to report sexual trauma than they would be in the general population, or if the screening really is specific to trauma within service. Or, possibly, that women in the military do suffer lower rates of sexual harrassment and assault (the screening looks for both) than women in the general population.
Note: Two years ago, for Veteran's Day, I noted that "at least five" countries conscripted women for military service (11/10/06). That number should have been "at least ten", according to updates to the Wikipedia "Conscription" page.
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