Newly published research in the journal Psychology of Violence highlights how stigma against reporting sexual assault in the military leads to heightened suicidal ideation amongst military sexual trauma (MST) women survivors.
The results of this cross-sectional, convenient-sampled study suggest that both self-stigma and anticipated enacted stigma from unit leaders for seeking help for MST were associated with suicidal ideation.
Military sexual trauma can be “instances of unwanted sexual attention and pressure, as well as threatened or actual sexual assault, during military service.” Statistics suggest an alarming prevalence of MST, with one out of every three veterans (33%) and one out of every twelve (8.4%) actively serving military personnel reporting MST.
The study authors, led by psychologist Rebecca Blais, draw attention to the severity of this issue:
“Those who experience MST are at elevated risk for a broad range of mental health, physical health, and adverse psychosocial outcomes, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol misuse, and sexual dysfunction…Additionally, women MST survivors are more likely to experience suicidal ideation … suicide attempts … and suicide mortality.”
Stigma and Expected Retaliation Drive Suicide Among Military Sexual Trauma Survivors