Aggregate Sexual Trauma Load, Quality of Life, and Psychiatric Comorbidity in Veterans with Military and Civilian Sexual Trauma
Williams, Rush Ciarán
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Over the last two decades, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) has received growing national attention. Among veterans, approximately 24% of women and 1% of men have experienced MST. Veterans with MST are particularly at-risk for a variety of mental health concerns, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. MST survivors are also likely to experience diminished quality of life, including engagement in risk-taking behaviors, marital problems, and interpersonal difficulties. This suggests that individuals with higher lifetime incidence of sexual trauma (including MST) may be at increased risk for poorer outcomes in quality of life and psychiatric symptoms. Moreover, relatively little attention has been paid to examining the differences in psychological sequelae among those who have experienced sexual trauma as children, and those whose sexual trauma exposure is limited to adulthood. To date, the majority of sexual trauma literature has focused primarily on civilian trauma, and comparatively few studies have specifically examined quality of life sequelae in Veterans with MST. This study examined aggregate sexual trauma load (i.e. lifetime incidence of sexual trauma, childhood sexual assault, and severity of sexual trauma) as a predictor of overall quality of life and severity of PTSD and depressive symptoms. Categorical linear regression analyses were performed on the variables of interest as predictors of scores on the Quality of Life Inventory (QOLI), Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), and Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS). A significant relationship was found between history of childhood sexual assault and severity of depression symptoms. Further, a non-significant trend was found between total incidence of prior sexual trauma and overall quality of life. No significant differences were found among the other variables of interest. Results highlight the need for specific attention to depressive symptomatology and the commonplace nature of severe sexual trauma in this population, as well as the need for future research with more heterogeneous and diverse samples. Conclusions, limitations, and implications are discussed.