Scale of the Problem
According to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal year (FY) 2020, released May 13, 2021, the number of reported sexual assaults that occurred during military service increased from 6,236 in FY 2019 to 6,290 in FY 2020. This represents about 6.2 percent of active duty women and .7 percent of men who experienced a sexual assault last year, for a total of 20,500 service members.
The rate of sexual assault in the military directly affects the lives of service members once they transition out of the military. According to Dr. Maureen Sayres Van Niel, president of the American Psychiatric Association Women’s Caucus, “There is a clear correlation between the experience of sexual harassment or sexual assault for a women and adverse effects on her life, be they physical or mental health consequences.” These health problems can include anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and poor sleep. According to the RAND Corporation’s 2018 report titled Needs of Male Sexual Assault Victims in the U.S. Armed Forces, male sexual assault victims experience depression, anxiety, nightmares, or problems with anger control. Both men and women have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety and depressive disorders than their peers who did not experience a sexual assault.
It is, therefore, imperative that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide support for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) and deliver benefits and services with dignity and respect at the forefront. According to VA’s fact sheet on MST, data collected from VA’s national screening program reveals that about one in three women and one in fifty men respond “yes” that they experienced MST, when asked by their VA provider. VA data also shows that over the last ten years, MST-related outpatient mental health care increased by more than 158 percent for women veterans and 110 percent for men.
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