Conceptual Model of Male Military Sexual Trauma

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Abstract

Objective: Male sexual trauma is understudied, leaving much to be known about the unique mental health needs of male survivors. This study examined veteran men’s perceptions of the effects of military sexual trauma. Method: Military sexual trauma was defined as physically forced, verbally coerced, or substance-incapacitated acts experienced during military service. Interviews were conducted with 21 male veterans who reported experiencing military sexual trauma. Data were drawn together using a grounded theory methodology. Results: Three categories emerged from data analysis, including (a) types of military sexual trauma (being touched in a sexual way against their will [N = 18]; sexual remarks directed at them [N = 15]; being physically forced to have sex [N = 13]); (b) negative life effects (difficulty trusting others [N = 18]; fear of abandonment [N = 17]; substance use [N = 13]; fear of interpersonal violence [N = 12]; conduct and vocational problems [N = 11]; irritability/aggression [N = 8]; insecurity about sexual performance [N = 8]; difficulty managing anger [N = 8]); and (c) posttraumatic growth (N = 15). Conclusions: Results from this study suggest sexual trauma in the military context may affect systems of self-organization, specifically problems in affective, self-concept, and relational domains, similar to symptoms of those who have experienced prolonged traumatic stressors. This model can be used by clinicians to select treatments that specifically target these symptoms and promote posttraumatic growth.

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