Health Services Research & Development

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Klap R, Darling JE, Hamilton AB, Rose DE, Dyer K, Canelo I, Haskell S, Yano EM. Prevalence of Stranger Harassment of Women Veterans at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Impacts on Delayed and Missed Care. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2019 Mar 1; 29(2):107-115.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Harassment of servicewomen during military service has been well-documented, but harassment of women veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) health care settings has not been studied systematically. We assessed the prevalence and impacts of harassment among women veterans who use VA health care. METHODS: From January to March 2015, we conducted computer-assisted telephone interviews of randomly sampled women veterans with three or more primary care and/or women's health visits at 1 of 12 VA medical centers. We asked if patients had experienced inappropriate/unwanted comments or behavior from male veterans at VA in the past year. We measured sociodemographics, health status, perceptions of VA care, delayed/unmet health care need, and care preferences. All analyses were weighted to account for the disproportionate sample design and nonresponse. Brief, open-ended descriptions of harassment were transcribed and coded. RESULTS: Approximately one in four women veterans (25.2%; n = 1,395, response rate 45%) reported inappropriate/unwanted comments or behavior by male veterans on VA grounds. Site prevalence ranged from 10% to 42%. Incident descriptions were wide-ranging (e.g., catcalls, sexual/derogatory remarks, propositioning, stalking, and denigration of veteran status). Reports of harassment were more common among women with histories of military sexual trauma; other trauma exposures (e.g., combat, childhood); positive screens for anxiety, depression, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder; and fair/poor health. Those who reported harassment were significantly less likely to report feeling welcome at VA, and more likely to report not feeling safe, and delaying/missing care. CONCLUSIONS: One-quarter of women veteran VA users experienced harassment in VA health care settings; these experiences negatively impacted women's health care experiences and use.