Intimate Partner Stalking: Contributions to PTSD Symptomatology Among a National Sample of Women Veterans

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Objectives: Women veterans are at high risk for intimate partner violence (IPV), which has previously been defined as psychological, physical, or sexual violence from an intimate partner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added stalking to its uniform definition of IPV, but little is known about the occurrence of stalking victimization among women veterans who experience IPV, its overlap with other forms of IPV, and its contribution to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology among this population. Methods: Lifetime intimate partner stalking, as well as physical, sexual, and psychological IPV, was assessed as part of a larger study of women veterans who completed a 2014 Web-based survey (75% participation rate). Women with a history of IPV or stalking (55%, n = 225) completed the PTSD Checklist-5 to assess PTSD symptoms related to IPV and items assessing military sexual trauma and combat exposure. Results: Among 225 women veterans with a history of IPV, approximately 64% (n = 145) reported lifetime stalking by an intimate partner. Women who experienced both stalking and other forms of IPV were 4.2 times more likely to experience probable PTSD than were women who experienced IPV without stalking, odds ratio (OR) = 4.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) [1.91, 9.13]. After adjusting for military sexual trauma and lifetime sum of other types of IPV, women who experienced partner stalking remained 2.5 times more likely than women without a history of partner stalking to experience probable PTSD, OR = 2.49, 95% CI [1.07, 5.78]. Conclusions: Stalking from an intimate partner is a common form of IPV experienced by women veterans that strongly contributes to risk for probable PTSD. In addition to other forms of IPV, identification and treatment efforts should attend to stalking victimization among this rapidly growing population.

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