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Sexual Assault in OEF/OIF Reserve/National Guard Servicewomen: Deployment Comparisons

Sadler AG, Mengeling M, Torner J, Cook BL, Booth BM. Sexual Assault in OEF/OIF Reserve/National Guard Servicewomen: Deployment Comparisons. Paper presented at: AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting; 2011 Jun 13; Seattle, WA.


Objectives: Identify differences in sexual assault occurrence in Reserve/National Guard (RNG) servicewomen during military service and by deployment to Iraq/Afghanistan. To identify trauma exposures combat-deployed RNG servicewomen experience and those they view as most traumatic Design: A cross-sectional study of RNG servicewomen by deployment experience: never deployed, deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (I/A) once; deployed to I/A more than once; deployed elsewhere. Random sampling within deployment category was carried out until 665 interviews were completed (70% response rate). The computer-assisted telephone interview assessed socio-demographic and military characteristics, trauma exposures, risk factors for gender-based violence exposures, health outcomes and care. Population Studied: Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) era RNG servicewomen from five Midwestern States. Principal Findings: Median age of participants was 37 years (range 19-66). Over half (52%) had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (I/A), 27% were deployed elsewhere than I/A, and 22% percent had never deployed. Forty percent of participants reported at least one life time sexual assault (SA) with 18% (n = 121) acknowledging SA during military service (MST). Women who experienced MST were less likely to report it occurring during any deployment (28%, n = 34), with women deployed to I/A endorsing a rate of 15% (n = 18). Thirty-one percent were officers and 69% enlisted rank. About two-thirds of participants (64%) were RNG service-members solely while 37% had served in both active component (AC) and RNG. Occurrence of MST did not differ by rank or service type. When queried about their most traumatic event, women deployed to I/A reported the sudden death of a close friend or relative (16%) and sexual assault (16%) most often. Incoming artillery during combat was endorsed b y 12%. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that deployment was not associated with elevated rates of MST in RNG servicewomen, however, almost 1 in 5 women reported MST. There was no difference in rates of MST by rank or prior AC service. Servicewomen both deployed to I/A and sexually assaulted acknowledged rape to be their most bothersome trauma at rates equal to or more bothersome than the top two combat trauma exposures acknowledged by non-victimized peers (sudden death of a close friend or relative and incoming artillery during combat). Implications for Policy Delivery or Practice: MST continues to be a too frequent occurrence in our servicewomen's military experience. Further study of the risk and protective factors for MST is clearly indicated given well-known consequent adverse health outcomes and elevated care utilization of assaulted women. Understanding trauma exposures combat-deployed RNG servicewomen experience and those they view as most traumatic has implications for assessments and interventions made by clinicians and institutions providing their care. Provider education about RNG servicewomen's unique occupational risk factors and health care needs is necessary given prior research suggesting they use both private and Veteran's Administration health care.

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