Veterans who return home often struggle with the transition. Some will struggle with reconnecting to family and friends they left behind to serve. Others will struggle with mental and physical health issues. Yet more veterans may turn to substances to cope. While there are many ways veterans can struggle upon return, a percentage of those veterans experience sexual assault while serving. Childhood trauma can rear its ugly head, too, causing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other challenges. Learn more about the impact of sexual assault on a person’s mental health and how that plays out in their return from service overseas.
Women are the most likely to experience rape or assault while serving in the military. Civilian women are also at risk of being assaulted. Sexual abuse happens to women as children, teens, young adults, and as grown women. Boys and men are also subjected to various types of sexual assaults. The reality is nobody is immune to it but knowing the types of assault that exist helps people to understand it better, be educated, and learn how to support a loved one who may be struggling in the aftermath of an assault.
Sexual assault and violence in the military can occur to both men and women. Due to the ratios of men to women in the military, men are more likely to experience sexual violence than women. There is also a stigma against this, not just because it is the military, but also due to the culture not always believing assault victims and survivors. Service members often under-report this crime. Retaliation is a big fear among male survivors (and female) who want to tell superiors what happened. They may be pushed aside for promotions, blamed for the assault, or not believed and even demoted. Survivors of both genders can face consequences professionally which may even lead to discharge from the military.
Men who experience assault can face severe stigma and avoidance of the reality they can also experience assault. When men report, they often face doubt and shaming. They are blamed for not being ‘man enough,’ or for being weak. Due to stigma, they are more likely to hide the assault and less likely to label it abuse. They may not even try to report it and self-harm or try to find other ways of coping with the trauma. Mental health issues can occur, along with addiction.
When sexual assault occurs, survivors may feel they are not able to handle the challenge alone. They hide behind shame and guilt, blaming themselves for the assault. Due to the trauma, they are at greater risk for mental health conditions. Survivors of sexual abuse may develop:
Sexual abuse and assault can lead to a person feeling worthless and ashamed. On top of this, they may have chronic pain issues or suffer from physical disabilities from serving. It is very important people who experience trauma receive treatment, care, and trauma-informed therapeutic support. This will help them process the experience in a healthy way and find hope for the future. If they connect to other people who understand what they’re dealing with, they tend to feel less alone and isolated. The key is to get them support, connection to treatment, and a community that can help them feel people care about their well-being.
Strive offers a safe space to be vulnerable and seek support for addiction or mental health issues. We also help veterans and first responders who have experienced sexual violence, abuse, or assault work on recovery in a trauma-informed setting. If you are struggling or know a loved one who needs help, call us: 1-888-224-7312