Sexual trauma can occur to any veteran, regardless of racial background, gender, age, and sexual orientation. Trauma in military service may comprise coercion into sexual activities with threats of dismissal, unwanted physical and verbal advances, and sexual contact without consent during intoxication. Such trauma often leads to mental and physical deterioration years after such incidences occur, with the signs of these long-term impacts often including:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Studies show that approximately 65% of men have PTSD related to military sexual trauma, with the percentage of women standing at 49.5%. Survivors will often relieve episodes of their tragic incidences, putting them at a higher risk of developing depression and substance use, with most being diagnosed with mood disorders.
Health issues linked to military sexual trauma can manifest through problems such as weight loss and gastrointestinal issues. Episodes of poor concentration are also likely to develop, with short attention spans and memory loss evident among survivors. This makes it difficult for such veterans to hold jobs for long periods, resulting in the loss of income. Prolonged periods of loss of concentration can also lead to disassociation, with numerous individuals finding it hard to focus on a particular task or conversation. This may occur at any time without warning, with the individuals in question seeming to be lost in a trance.
Additional long-term health issues common among sexual trauma survivors also include mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Chronic eating problems and weight gain could also lead to liver disease, obesity, and hypothyroidism.
Difficulty Maintaining Healthy Relationships
Another impact of military sexual trauma is difficulty with social functioning. Survivors have trouble trusting people around them, which derails romantic relationships and family connections following tragic occurrences. Feelings such as shame, anger, and fear often lead to dysfunction in social spaces, making it difficult for veterans to immerse themselves in social life. This may trickle down to the work environment, with survivors finding it impossible to keep up with job requirements due to a disconnect from their colleagues.
On top of that, survivors of sexual abuse will often get into abusive relationships, with some ending up being the perpetrators. Victims in such circumstances suffer from physical, mental, and sexual harm, with no outlet to express their frustrations and feelings of hopelessness. The perpetrators also get in trouble with the authorities, creating legal repercussions that take years to solve.
Insomnia comes in many forms, the most common being trouble falling asleep. This makes it challenging for the survivors to be productive in their daily activities, resulting in a loss of productivity at the workplace. Other signs of insomnia include trouble getting quality sleep and difficulty staying asleep.
In addition to this, survivors may also get recurring nightmares involving events of the trauma, which is likely the cause for most finding it hard to fall asleep. Due to lack of enough rest, insomnia makes other issues spiral out of control, with substance abuse and violent episodes increasing significantly. It also means that survivors may find themselves in dangerous situations, with accidents likely to happen when they fall asleep behind the wheel on the road or when tasked with operating heavy machinery.
Substance abuse is one of the most visible effects of trauma among survivors of military sexual trauma. Veterans with untreated trauma often turn to substances to numb the pain and the reality of their trauma, with extreme cases of multiple blackout incidences becoming common. Drugs such as marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine are among the most sought-after by trauma survivors, increasing the risks of overdose due to their availability.
The effects of military sexual assault are far-reaching, with family and friends often ending up in a vicious cycle of pain, abuse, and neglect. Even with impacts such as social dysfunction, substance abuse, and health issues, there remains hope for survivors of military sexual trauma, with medical centers and help groups availing treatment at various local facilities.