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Sexual Trauma Haunts Many Female Vets
Date:10/28/2008

Study found 1 in 7 from Iraq, Afghanistan who sought medical care were victims

TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Shedding light on the challenges facing women in the military, a new study shows that more than one in seven female Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking VA medical care reported experiencing sexual trauma during their service.

Veterans who reported sexual trauma, such as rape and threatening sexual harassment, were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

"These mental health conditions are getting recognized, diagnosed and treated," said study co-author Joanne Pavao, a researcher with the VA Palo Alto Health Care System's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in California.

Pavao and her colleagues analyzed the records of 89,960 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who sought medical care in the VA health-care system between Oct. 1, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2006. They were expected to present their findings Tuesday in San Diego at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting.

A total of 1,849 women -- 14.5 percent -- reported experiencing sexual trauma during their service; 471 men -- 0.6 percent -- said they'd experienced sexual trauma.

A study released in 2007 found that 22 percent of female veterans and 1 percent of male veterans reported sexual trauma in VA health-care surveys conducted in 2003. That study looked at veterans of all types, not just from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new study found that these men and women were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than those who didn't report experiencing sexual trauma.

Among women who reported experiencing sexual trauma, 76 percent were diagnosed with a mental condition, compared to 47 percent of other female veterans. The rates were similar in men.

According to the study, the most common me
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