A study conducted by Yale University School of Medical researchers found that sexual harassment was four times more likely than active military duty to cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among female military veterans.
PTSD symptoms include nightmare or flashbacks, avoidance of places where stress occurred or things that remind the individual about the stressful incidents, emotional detachment from loved ones, unwarranted suspicion of others, nervousness and anxiety. Some PTSD patients experience these symptoms for years after the stressful event occurred.
For the study, 327 female veteran PTSD patients were interviewed. About two thirds of the women served in either the Vietnam or Persian Gulf War and 12% had served in armed combat. 63% of the interviewees reported physical sexual harassment during their military service, and 43% reported rape or attempted rape.
Many of the women interviewed stated that believed sexual harassment and assault were institutionalized in the military, and that these abuses could not be avoided. Study authors Fontana and Rosenheck say this feeling of powerlessness led to “a heightened feeling of betrayal or disillusionment” in the women that made it difficult for them to heal from specific incidents.
Feminist News Stories on Sexual Harassment, Assault and Discrimination in the Military