Women at war: implications for mental health.J Trauma Dissociation. 2011; 12(1):25-37.JT
Few studies have investigated the impact of deployment stressors on the mental health outcomes of women deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This pilot study examined exposure to combat experiences and military sexual harassment in a sample of 54 active duty women and assessed the impact of these stressors on post-deployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and depressive symptoms. Within 3 months of returning from deployment to Iraq, participants completed (a) the Combat Experiences Scale and the Sexual Harassment Scale of the Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory, (b) the Primary Care PTSD Screen, and (c) an abbreviated version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale. Approximately three quarters of the sample endorsed exposure to combat experiences, and more than half of the sample reported experiencing deployment-related sexual harassment, with nearly half of the sample endorsing both stressors. Approximately one third of the sample endorsed clinical or subclinical levels of PTSD symptoms, with 11% screening positive for PTSD and 9% to 14% of the sample endorsing depressive symptoms. Regression analyses revealed that combat experiences and sexual harassment jointly accounted for significant variance in post-deployment PTSD symptoms, whereas military sexual harassment was identified as the only unique significant predictor of these symptoms. Findings from the present study lend support to research demonstrating that military sexual trauma may be more highly associated with post-deployment PTSD symptoms than combat exposure among female service members and veterans.