Each year an estimated 24,000 military service members report being the victim of military sexual trauma (Elder et al., 2017). Military sexual trauma, henceforth referred to as MST, is defined as the threat or act of sexual harassment or assault occurring in the military context (Elder et al., 2017). The majority of these individuals that report are men. Despite making up the majority of reported cases, and even though most male survivors don’t formally report, male survivors, and the effect of MST on these men, are severely understudied. This means that there is limited knowledge of the ways in which men are affected by MST.
Research Paper on Sexual Assault In The Military
In 2018 a phenomenological study was conducted to analyze the effects of MST among male veterans (Monteith et al., 2018a). The findings of this study showed that participants suffered from “disruptions to their sense of masculinity”; questioned their sexuality; altered their attitudes as well as their beliefs and behaviors in an attempt to avoid revictimization; turned toward avoidant coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, thought suppression, and even engaging in excessive exercise; expressed a feeling of both individual and institutional betrayal; became distrustful as well as hypervigilant and disillusioned; and struggled with issues regarding intimacy and isolation and subsequent relationship problems (Monteith et al., 2018a).
Thesis Statement for Sexual Assault In The Military
Additional effects were observed depending on not only the individual’s decision of whether or not to report but the reaction to that report as well. One article went so far as to speculate that negative responses to reporting might result in more harm than the decision not to report at all (Elder et al., 2017).
Research Papers on Mental and Physical Health Consequences of MST
Furthermore, research suggests that beyond the previously mentioned psychological effects of MST, male survivors are at a higher risk for an assortment of diagnosed mental and physical conditions when compared to female survivors or male veterans who didn’t experience MST. These include, but are not limited to, mood disorders, AIDS, symptoms of posttraumatic stress, liver disease, symptoms of depression, chronic pulmonary disease, and suicidal ideation (Monteith et al., 2018a). Male survivors don’t have statistically stronger associations with PTSD, but they do report “more violent and aggressive symptoms, higher baseline trauma-related symptoms, more persistent trauma-related sexual problems, and are more likely to have comorbid alcohol and substance use” (Monteith et al., 2018a).
Ideas on MST’s Effects on Survivors’ Meso-, Macro-, and Chrono-Systems
Ways in which the MST affected survivors’ meso-, macro-, and chrono-systems were also studied. While still in the service, survivors had to worry about negative performance reviews, decreased job opportunities, including advancement and promotion, being given worse working conditions, isolation and ridicule from peers, and the fear of being discharged if the perpetrator was a supervisor (Monteith et al., 2018a). Additionally, after discharge, rates of homelessness among veterans who report incidences of MST are double those without, and males have higher rates still than females (Monteith et al., 2018a).
Understanding the Increased Risk of Suicidality Among Male MST Survivors
A secondary study was subsequently conducted based on the first one in order to hypothesize why male survivors of MST are at such an elevated risk of suicidality. In general male veterans make up more than 97% of veteran suicides (Monteith et al., 2018b). Those who have experienced MST are at an even higher risk of engaging in fatal suicidal behaviors (Monteith et al., 2018b). All of the thematic effects mentioned in the previously discussed study relate to suicidal behaviors after MST. Suicidal behavior is defined as “behavior that is self-directed and deliberately results in injury or the potential for injury to oneself with evidence of suicidal intent” (Monteith et al., 2018b). That being said, male survivors of MST are at an elevated risk for non-fatal suicidal self-directed violence, with a stronger association between MST and suicidal ideation and planning than among female survivors (Monteith et al., 2018b). A recent study claims that in comparison to women who screened positive for MST, males were 4.83 times more likely to report having experienced suicidal ideation within the week prior (Monteith et al., 2018b).
Based on research conducted with male veterans in the care of the Veterans Health Administration, psychiatric diagnoses cannot fully explain this elevated association between male survivors of MST and suicidal behavior (Monteith et al., 2018b). Other emergent research, though not conducted among male veteran survivors exclusively, suggests that “interpersonal processes and perceptions of institutional response to MST are also associated with suicidal ideation among veterans who have experienced MST” (Monteith et al., 2018b). This draws back to the earlier theme of survivors experiencing a feeling of betrayal after experiencing MST.
Feeling of Betrayal and Military Culture
In the originally mentioned study, male survivors reported feelings of betrayal by the military, specifically the institution or branch they served in (Monteith et al., 2018a). They perceived military culture as a contributing factor to their MST. They described military culture as perpetuating highly sexualized environmental conditions as well as hazing rituals, such as one referred to as a “blanket party,” in which they cover your head with a blanket and do what they want to you, which contributed to their MST (Monteith et al., 2018a).
Additionally, they felt a sense of betrayal when their disclosure was met with negative reactions. Survivors reported feeling that they were discouraged from reporting their MST formally after disclosing, as well as felt there was a lack of protective institutional policies in place for the prevention and protection of survivors (Monteith et al., 2018a). Policies they found lacking were those that would protect those who experience and report MST. They also conveyed a feeling of betrayal due to the fact that military culture, and general culture, convey the incorrect idea that MST doesn’t happen, and if it does, it’s to females (Monteith et al., 2018a).
In 2005 the Department of Defense launched SARP and openly admitted that there was limited knowledge regarding male MST. Since then, there has been progress in the study of male MST. This trend needs to continue, and the research findings need to be incorporated into treatment plans as well as future versions of the DoD plan to prevent and respond to MST.