Higher self-stigma is related to lower likelihood of disclosing military sexual trauma during screening in female veterans

Felicia J. Andresen, Rebecca K. Blais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Recent prevalence estimates indicate 38% of female service members/veterans (SM/Vs) report military sexual trauma (MST). This estimate is higher than Veterans Affairs estimates, which suggest 28% report MST during screening. The discrepant estimate suggests possible barriers to disclosing MST, which are not well-identified in the literature. The current study examined whether being assaulted by a fellow unit member and stigma for seeking help to treat the sequelae of MST from self, unit leader/ command, and romantic partners were correlates of MST nondisclosure among 209 female SM/Vs. Method: Participants completed a self-report questionnaire assessing MST nondisclosure, MST assailant characteristics, and stigma from the aforementioned sources as well as demographic, military, and mental health characteristics. Logistic regression analyses adjusting for military rank, MST severity, age, marital status and satisfaction, and probable mental health diagnoses determined whether being assaulted by a fellow unit member (yes/no) or stigma from various sources were associated with MST nondisclosure. Results: Thirty-seven (17.70%) participants did not disclose MST during a previous screening. At the bivariate level, participants who did not disclose MST reported higher self-stigma and anticipated enacted stigma from unit leader/command and romantic partner. After adjusting for covariates, only higher self-stigma was associated with MST nondisclosure. Conclusions: Female veterans who report higher self-stigma were less likely to disclose their MST during screening. Such findings are consistent with previous literature demonstrating that self-stigma, relative to other forms of stigma, relates to lower help-seeking behaviors. Efforts to increase the disclosure of MST during screening should focus on reducing self-stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-378
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Disclosure of trauma
  • Females
  • Military sexual trauma
  • Stigma
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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