Rates of military sexual trauma among men who served in the military may be as much as 15 times higher than has been previously reported, largely because of barriers associated with stigma, beliefs in myths about male rape, and feelings of helplessness, according to articles published by the American Psychological Association.
Anonymity may not guarantee accurate reports of military sexual trauma on male service members, according to a study of 180 combat veterans by Sean C. Sheppard, PhD, University of Utah. Using a form of randomized response techniques to gain information about the accuracy of estimates of male sexual trauma in the military, researchers found that the rates may be more than 15 times higher than is generally reported in traditional anonymous surveys. Stigma may be an overwhelming factor in traditional reporting and could be contributing to a substantial underestimation of the true rate of this problem, the authors said.
Data from a Florida Veterans Affairs study suggests that men who are sexually assaulted in the military are less likely than women who are sexually assaulted to report the assault or seek treatment. The authors of this analysis say there is a lack of research on sexual assault on men in the military, with most work focused on prevalence rates rather than the effects and clinical treatment of this problem.
The authors discuss how the impact of male rape myths such as “Men don’t get raped” may be particularly strong for men who are assaulted within the military context and increase shame and secrecy, delay treatment seeking, lead to increased life difficulties, and impair recovery.
A North Carolina VA study of 2,042 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan supports this theory. Male veterans who reported being sexually assaulted while serving their country suffered more severe symptoms of PTSD and depression, had higher rates of suicidal thoughts and were more likely to enroll in outpatient mental health treatment than those who were not assaulted.
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