It’s important to understand the significance of what the VA identifies as PTSD caused by military sexual trauma (MST). About half of active-duty and female veterans, as well as less than 5% of male military personnel and veterans, have experienced MST. Sadly, 28% of Air Force women being victimized at some point, compared to 13% in the national civilian sample. The number of sexual assaults among the active-duty military population is higher than in the civilian population or among individuals serving part-time in the Federal Reserves or the National Guard.
There has been a disturbing high rate of victims with military sexual trauma (MST) with a stigma of a mental illness that is often neglected and professionally untreated. Furthermore, women veterans who are victims of MST are over twice as likely to experience homelessness. Furthermore, studies have found more female veterans experienced childhood sexual assault as compared to civilians who did not enter the military.
The Prevalence of Dominant Male Behavior
Within military units, opinions and beliefs about female service members can vary among select members. This is particularly evident in combat arms units, where differing dynamics of intergroup conflict can arise. The male service member’s identity often takes on a more prominent and dominant role. This then influences the development of a dual positive-we, negative-they perception. Unfortunately, this can lead to the devaluation of the male service member’s thoughts toward females. Homogeneous malevolent behavior may be the final consequence. Why? Such behavior can stem from misinformation about females. Interactions with female members may be more superficial in nature, indicating a lack of equal recognition. Feelings of insecurity can be exacerbated by perceived external threats, especially in situations with limited information.
Outgroup homogeneity in male units does not have as much contact with female service members. This results in scapegoating, stereotyping, and falling into self-fulling prophecies. If male service members think that female service members are less capable, male service members will treat females in a way that will influence their behavior and thus reinforce their stereotype. If the behavior of other individuals in the unit is in opposition to the male’s stereotypes about females, they will rather preserve their stereotypes and see this behavior as exceptional, rare, and uncommon.
A Lack of Social Interaction With Different Groups or Cultures Contributes to the Problem
Some young soldiers have never had the experience of positive interaction with a different culture. Consequently, this can perpetuate misogyny or an idea of what masculinity should or should not be. Thus, when more individuals in the unit spurn the idea of females in combat units, misogynist behavior becomes the norm. As a result, the victim’s identity is defined as the outgroup which again causes a circle of conflict.
MST Victims do not have a sense of belonging in the workplace and fall short of self-esteem. It was found in a report conducted in 2015 by Human Rights Watch that victims are advised by their chain of command that if victims report the crime, they could face criminal charges or non-judicial punishment for collateral misconduct.
Furthermore, when a sexual assault does occur against a person of low organizational power, the rank structure can be intimidating for the victim to report the crime. When victims are considered the outgroup, behavioral psychology can be a significant factor when leaders create a command climate that should be functional and effective.
Psychodynamic theory presents victims as having an unconscious need for pleasure in the workplace such as personal drive and creativity (Eros) or harassment and discrimination which leads to aggression and conflict (Thanatos). This theory suggests victims do not have a sense of personal fulfillment. As a result, they fall into a state of depression, anxiety, and fear.
Male-on-Male Gang Rape Is Another Factor
According to the 2016 DOD SAPR report, male-on-male gang rapes in combat units can be seen as some twisted hazing ritual or as a consequence of the victim not meeting expected competency levels, especially when preparing for combat operations. Unfortunately, these rape initiations often go unnoticed, and victims feel scared and distrustful of the system. As a result, this stops them from reporting the incidents. In turn, this lets the perpetrators remain anonymous.
Additionally, when gang rape occurs, many attackers blend in with the group and avoid individual responsibility. In the military, male-on-male rape victims are often reluctant to report the incidents. This is due to fear of the possibility of being disregarded by authorities. As a result, the perpetrators continue to enjoy anonymity. The larger the group and the more anonymity involved, the more devastating the consequences. It’s disheartening to see how sex crimes can persist when individual responsibility is detached from the perpetrators.
Get Help Today From Harmony Hills
At Harmony Hills, we understand the deep impact that military sexual trauma can have on a person’s mental and physical well-being. We offer specialized treatment for men and women veterans who are suffering from MST. Our team of experienced counselors and clinicians provides a supportive environment where you can heal in dignity and safety. We also offer a range of group therapy programs to promote recovery and encourage positive coping skills.
Our counselors understand the unique challenges that can arise when a loved one is suffering from trauma due to military sexual assault. We are dedicated to helping you and your family find peace of mind and restore your relationships.
At Harmony Hills, we are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all veterans who seek our help. Our counselors have the skills and knowledge to help you cope with the trauma of MST and move forward on your path toward well-being. Contact us today at 855.494.0357 for more information about our services.