Veterans and Sexual Trauma
One in four female servicemembers (25%) and one in one hundred male servicemembers (1%) can expect to experience sexual trauma or assault at some point in their military career. In total, that comes out to an estimated 20,000 people each year. And yet, experts warn that even that staggering number might be an underestimate, with many more cases of sexual violence in the military going unreported entirely.
Understanding Sexual Assault in the Military
The reasons behind the prevalence of sexual assault in the military are complex, but most people agree that they boil down to the prevailing culture in the military. The military is still heavily male-dominated, and misogynistic attitudes remain prevalent. What’s more, the leadership structure isn’t conducive to upholding fair investigations.
Many anecdotal accounts include reports of perpetrators going unpunished even when the assault is reported, or commanding officers urging victims not to say anything to authorities. In other cases, victims who do report their assault find themselves ostracized or even punished.
The Long-Term Consequences of Military Sexual Trauma
Unfortunately, the impact of sexual harassment in the military can follow victims for the remainder of their military careers—and sometimes longer. Research estimates that around a quarter of servicemembers who experience sexual assualt leave the military within the next 28 months.
Exposure to trauma can increase an individual’s likelihood of becoming homeless, and surveys have drawn a clear connection between military sexual assault and homelessness. Veterans who have experienced sexual trauma are also likely to suffer from depression or PTSD, both of which can jeopardize their chances of stable employment and/or reliable housing. Military sexual trauma has also been correlated with poor social relationships, physical health issues, and substance abuse—all of which may put an individual at increased risk of homelessness, depending on their circumstances.
National Veterans Homeless Support seeks to eliminate homelessness among veterans in Central Florida and nationwide. NVHS takes a proactive, intervention-based approach to homelessness by meeting homeless veterans where they are and helping them from there. Through programs like Search and Rescue Outreach, NVHS helps homeless veterans get the supplies they need to survive, connects them with support and resources, and helps them transition off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing. If you’re able, consider supporting our mission by donating or signing on as a volunteer.