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Military Sexual Trauma


A brief overview of Military Sexual Trauma

A brief overview of Military Sexual Trauma

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  • New Guinea: Enlisted women housed within a barbed war compound and treated as prisoners. No recreational facilities. Also problems with adequate medical care, exhaustion from working 10-15 hours a day 7 days a week, and a lack of appropriate uniforms. Women served as pilots, mechanics, control tower operators, truck drivers, aerial gunnery instructors, logistics chiefs, cryptographers and intelligence officers
  • Retired Colonel Elizabeth Brooks, USAF, MST is “weak minded superior officers responding inappropriately to the assignment of women to jobs previously filled by men. They saw the assignment of a woman as an opportunity to prey on her perceived weakness.”MST underlines the mission and the mission come first according to the US soldiers creed: I will always place the mission first.I will never accept defeat.I will never quit.I will never leave a fallen comrade.Affects of MST: Avoid places or things that remind you of what happened, avoid your friends, family and other people, Have trouble sleeping or nightmares, feel numb, have relationship problems. Think about death or killing yourself.
  • Friedman, Director of PTSD Center at VA. “sexual assault within a military unit can lead to a heightened sense of apprehension and vulnerability, because victims must continue to live and work closely with the perpetrators. Furthermore, victims are often silenced by peer pressure, unreceptive leaders, or the fear of jeopardizing their careers.” NPR – Youth Radio Investigation into hazing and sexual harassment in Navy. A hazed sailor stated: It's supposed to be this tight unit, we're supposed to be a family,And when you get into it, I mean, the enemy's not outside the line, the enemy's within. ... Your enemy is your chain of command.“Youth Radio asked Yale law professor Eugene Fidell, who is president of the National Institute of Military Justice, to review the investigation's Findings of Fact and give his opinion on the Navy's follow-up."It did seem to me [from the materials that were made available] that some criminal punishment under the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] was called for. It looked to me like rampant misconduct of a kind that was utterly incompatible with military service on behalf of our country," Fidell said. Fidell served as a judge advocate and has made a career of reviewing military justice cases."I would expect anybody in pay grade petty officer and above to be held accountable," he said. "These people have responsibilities, they are supposed to be leaders, we depend on them, and if they're either engaging in this kind of misconduct or tolerating it, they need to be taught a lesson."
  • Out of nearly 3,000 cases reported in 2008. Only 10.9% of all sexual assaults reported result in a court martial. Of those 62% only receive a reprimand.
  • Military practices Adverse to Sexual Assault VictimsLack of privacy protections. Mandatory reporting means a report always go back through the chain of command to the actual commander in charge of the servicewoman. No provisions in military code that prohibits anyone from talking about reports or disclosing allegations amongst other military personnel. Thus reporting an assault can further traumatize victim.Lack of training among military personnel on how to address sexual assault.Victim must continue to serve with offenders. Continuing to serve with and show respect for one’s perpetrator compounds the trauma. They may even have to salute the person due to military regulations regarding rank.Result: “Over the years I have learned that women in the military who report harassment or sexual assault become the guilty party. Most women don’t report such crimes because they fear no one will be believe them or it will ruin their career. Women who make reports are considered troublemakers….”
  • Photo: General Dunwoody First Army Four Star General
  • Denver Post reported in 2003 that between 1992 and 2003 about 5,000 military sex offenders escaped punishment.Only study conducted is one that studied rates of premilitary trauma (childhood physical and sexual abuse) and found 58% of women and 35% of men reported a history of this. Among women this was believed to be a factor in early attrition. (Caulfied, M., 2005). She reported that “I came to trust the Iraqis more than my fellow soldiers”. Women who report rape frequently suffer hazing or retaliation. May be thrown in brig and accused of sexual misconduct. It’s a career ender. Capt Jennifer Machmer. Graduate of West Point – Congressional Testimony. Sexually abused by military chaplain in 2002, raped in Kuwait in 2003, reported attack and her career imploded. Discharged against her wishes while her assailant was promoted. “Every time you turn around you are revictimized, and retraumatized.”


  • 1. Women Warriors & Military Sexual Trauma
    Janet Cater, M.S., CRC
    University of Arkansas
  • 2. World War II
    • Many servicemen resented women doing “masculine jobs” & started rumors demeaning women volunteers.
    President Roosevelt thought rumors were the actions of enemy saboteurs
    Women were hassled & felt many men treated them as if they were prostitutes. (Holm, 1982, p. 85)
  • 3. Military Sexual Trauma
    Admiral Michelle Howard
    Gender harassment
    Unwanted sexual attention & sexual coercion
    Sexual Assault – any sexual activity that is forced including touching, grabbing and sexual intercourse
    (National Center for PTSD)
  • 4. Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
    Women are 3X more likely to experience MST
    1% men experienced MST
    Reported rates of female MST vary from 20% to 63%. Estimated 80% unreported to DoD.
    Servicewomen report they are labeled either a “bitch, a dyke or a whore” by male servicemen (Corbett, 2007; Kimmerling, et al., 2007; Suris & Lind, 2008;VA)
  • 5. Affects of MST
    Avoid places or things that remind you of incident
    Avoid family, friends, & other people
    Trouble sleeping or nightmares
    Feel numb
    Relationship problems
    Think about death or killing yourself
  • 6. Prevalance of MSTOEF – Afghanistan & OIF - Iraq
    11% of troops are women
    Invasion of Iraq – 80% of the feet on the ground were Reserves & National Guard which is 24% female
    60% of these women experienced MST vs. 27% of males
    Often the only woman in their unit
    13% experienced Sexual Assault vs. 1.6% for males (Street, Stafford, Mahan & Hendricks, 2008)
  • 7. Women with MST
    71% of women seeking disability for PTSD reported history of MST
    PTSD & MST untreated can have long term health consequences
    Substance abuse
    Dissociative disorders
    Eating disorders
    Employment difficulties
    Increased suicide risk
    Major depression
    Physical illness
    Major Tammy Duckworth
    Kimmerling, et al., 2007; Murdoch, et al., 2004; Suris, et al, 2009
  • 8. Military Justice System
    3 Elements
    The Uniform Code of Military Justice…not significantly revised since 1950s
    Judge Advocate General Corps – represent commanding authority of installation, ship, etc.
    Command Discretion: commanders decide if a case goes to court martial
    Miles Foundation, 2005
  • 9. Women in U.S. Military
    Army 14%
    Marines 6%
    Navy 15%
    Air Force 20%
    Coast Guard 12%
    Reserves 24%
    National Guard 15%
    (, 2009)
    Director of the Women’s Research and Education Institute, “There’s no going back. If you tried to pull women out of the equation, this country could not fight a war.” (Martineau & Wiegand, 2005, p. 1)
    Army 4 Star General Ann Dunwoody
  • 10. MST & Military Attrition
    Rate of attrition for women is 30% higher than the rate for men across all branches of service
    MST & Attrition is a factor that has yet to be studied
    When a commander & troops ignore MST it creates hostile work & living environment
    Women who report MST frequently suffer hazing or retaliation
    Failure to prosecute sexual offenders often results in women being discharged instead
  • 11. Prevention
    Promote & Honor more servicewomen
    Top Down Attitudes of Intolerance for MST
    Punish both perpetrators & any commanding officers who cover up or ignore
    Investigate all allegations of MST
    5,000 accused sexual offenders escaped punishment since 1992 ---The Denver Post, 2003
    Stop making reports of MST a “career ender” for women
    End Discrimination against homosexuals
    • Women are pressured into sex under threat of being labeled lesbian and then being forced out of the military