Military sexual trauma (MST) is a pervasive problem; this study examined the relationship of the precursory traumas of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and warfare exposure with MST. Post-9/11 veterans were surveyed at 3 months and at 24 to 30 months post-military separation. Female veterans who experienced at least 1 ACE but no warfare exposure were significantly more likely to receive unwanted sexual attention. Veterans (males and females) experiencing three or more ACEs but no warfare exposure were significantly more likely to receive unwanted sexual attention and contact. Experiencing only warfare exposure was not related to unwanted sexual attention or contact for females; however, a significant interaction was found between combined warfare exposure, ACEs, and MST for males and females. Veterans who reported warfare exposure and one to two or three or more ACEs were more likely to report unwanted sexual attention and/or contact. Exploration of individual ACEs revealed a significant relationship between childhood sexual abuse and unwanted sexual contact. For females, witnessing domestic violence predicted unwanted sexual contact. There was also a significant interaction between childhood sexual abuse and warfare exposure. Females who experienced both childhood sexual abuse and warfare exposure were significantly more likely to receive unwanted sexual attention and unwanted sexual contact. Albeit a small sample, males who experienced both were also significantly more likely to receive unwanted sexual attention. The findings reveal that precursory traumatic experiences in childhood and the interaction of ACEs and warfare exposure during military service can increase the likelihood of unwanted sexual attention and contact. This research further substantiates the need for screening efforts. It also demonstrates the importance of practitioners engaging in trauma-informed care principles and practices to address the residual effects of previous experiences during sexual trauma or mental health treatment efforts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Applied Psychology