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Sexual Assault Among Male Veterans

Sexual Assault Among Male Veterans


Psychiatric Times April 2005
Vol. XXII
Issue 4


Sexual assault is a serious problem associated with significant human suffering and long-term health costs. Since the widely publicized incident at the Tailhook Symposium in 1991, which included Navy personnel, disturbingly high rates of adult sexual assault have been documented among women serving in the military (Table).

The prevalence of adult sexual assault among female veterans, for example, has been estimated as high as 41% (Coyle et al., 1996; Sadler et al., 2000; Skinner et al., 2000) and is considerably higher than rates of lifetime sexual assault among civilian women (Resnick et al., 1993). Among women, sexual assault is a significant risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, and alcohol and drug abuse (Koss et al., 1994). Other long-term sequelae identified among female adult sexual assault survivors include sexual dysfunction (van Berlo and Ensink, 2000), impaired social functioning and employment difficulties (Sadler et al., 2000; Schwartz, 1991), and physical health complaints, as well as increased health care utilization (Frayne et al., 2003; Ullman and Brecklin, 2003).

In comparison to the burgeoning literature on the prevalence and impact of adult sexual assault on women, there is a dearth of published literature on male adult sexual assault victims. In this article, we provide an overview of the existent literature on male sexual assault and highlight recent findings on the prevalence of adult sexual assault in a large sample of male veterans applying for PTSD disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The treatment implications of these recent data for psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals are discussed.

Male Sexual Assault and Rape Myths

Despite early epidemiological data estimating that as many as 7% of men have experienced adult sexual assault (Sorenson et al., 1987), the scientific and clinical communities have largely ignored men who have experienced sexual violence. The lack of data on male sexual assault may reflect the fact that women are more likely than men to experience adult sexual assault and that the majority of perpetrators of sexual assaults are men.

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