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Keywords:

  • military sexual trauma;
  • PTSD;
  • women's health

BACKGROUND: This study compares rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in female veterans who had military sexual trauma (MST) with rates of PTSD in women veterans with all other types of trauma.

METHODS: Subjects were recruited at the Women's Comprehensive Healthcare Center when attending medical or psychiatric appointments or through a mailing; 230 women agreed and 196 completed the study. They completed questionnaires on health and military history, along with the Stressful Life Events Questionnaire (SLEQ). Those who met DSM-IV PTSD Criterion A completed the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview (PSS-I) on which PTSD diagnoses were based.

RESULTS: Ninety-two percent reported at least 1 trauma. Forty-one percent had MST, alone or with other trauma, and 90% had other trauma, with or without MST. Overall, 43% of subjects with trauma had PTSD. Those with MST had higher rates of PTSD than those with other trauma. Sixty percent of those with MST had PTSD; 43% of subjects with other traumas (with or without MST) had PTSD. Military sexual trauma and other trauma both significantly predicted PTSD in regression analyses (P=.0001 and .02, respectively) but MST predicted it more strongly. Prior trauma did not contribute to the relationship between MST and PTSD.

DISCUSSION: Findings suggest that MST is common and that it is a trauma especially associated with PTSD.