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The Role of Unit and Interpersonal Support in Military Sexual Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms.

Webermann AR, Relyea MR, Portnoy GA, Martino S, Brandt CA, Haskell SG. The Role of Unit and Interpersonal Support in Military Sexual Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Journal of interpersonal violence. 2023 Aug 1; 38(15-16):9514-9535.

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Military sexual trauma (MST) is strongly associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Among many potential factors explaining this association are unit and interpersonal support, which have been explored in few studies with veterans who have experienced MST. This project examines unit and interpersonal support as moderators and/or mediators of PTSD symptoms among post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn veterans who experienced MST. MST, unit support, and interpersonal support variables were collected at Time 1 (T1; N? = 1,150, 51.4% women), and PTSD symptoms 1?year later at Time 2 (T2; ? = 825; 52.3% women). Given gender differences in endorsed MST, models with the full sample (men and women) and women only were examined, while controlling for covariates related to PTSD, and a path model was examined among women veterans. Mediation was supported in the full model and women-only models, with the combination of both mediators demonstrating the strongest mediation effects (full-model: ß? = .06, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.03, 0.10], ? < .001; women-only model: ß? = .07, [0.03, 0.14], ? = .002). Among the women-only model, MST was negatively associated with unit support (ß? = -.23, [-0.33, -0.13], ? < .001) and interpersonal support (ß? = -.16, [-0.27, -0.06], ? = .002) and both support types were negatively associated with PTSD symptoms (unit support: ß? = -.13, [-0.24, -0.03], ? = .014; interpersonal support: ß? = -.25, [-0.35, -0.15], ? < .001). Moderation was not supported in the full model nor in the women-only model. Experiencing MST is associated with receiving less unit and/or interpersonal support, which in turn is associated with greater PTSD symptoms. More work is needed to understand and improve the impact of unit and community responses to MST on service members who experience MST.

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