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

ntal health conditions among the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders (which cause stress and other problems during certain situations), and drug addiction or alcoholism. All were more common in men and women who reported sexual trauma; post-traumatic stress disorder was much more common in women than men in that group.

It's not clear where the sexual trauma occurred. "It's sexual trauma that occurred during active military duty," Pavao said. "It could have occurred at any point during the service history of these men and women."

All veterans who seek health care within the VA system are screened for sexual trauma, Pavao said. "When this is detected, they're offered free health care for all conditions that the clinicians determine to be related to military sexual trauma. This is part of the VA's large-scale efforts to treat these conditions in a timely way."

If they get treatment, many women who experienced sexual trauma can recover, said Edna B. Foa, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who studies sexual violence.

About 20 percent of women who are raped in the general population develop post-traumatic stress disorder, she said. "Even if they don't meet the criteria of the disorder, many of them will have symptoms that will cause them distress, difficulties having sexual relationships, etc....," she said. "Having a sexual trauma is serious."

More information

Learn more about sexual trauma in the military from the VA.



SOURCES: Joanne Pavao, M.P.H., researcher, National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Calif.; Edna B. Foa, Ph.D., professor, psychology and psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Oct. 28, 2008, presentatio
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