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Military Sexual Trauma Associated With Higher Risk for Homelessness

Andrea Smardon
George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Utah researchers have found that sexual trauma in the military is associated with a much higher risk for homelessness. They’ve published their conclusions in a new study.

Researchers examined the records of more than 600,000 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. They found that almost ten percent of those who reported military sexual trauma experienced a period of homelessness. Study co-author Adi Gundlapalli is with the Salt Lake City VA Health Care System and associate professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He says the association with homelessness was independent of other factors including mental health and substance abuse diagnoses.

“Just the fact that somebody had said yes, I experienced sexual trauma in the military was enough of a marker to say that they were at higher risk for homelessness,” Gundlapalli says.

In fact, the rates of homelessness among the veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) were twice as high as those who reported none. Twenty-five percent of female veterans and one percent of male veterans reported MST. While fewer men experienced sexual trauma, their risk of homelessness was greater than for women with MST. Dr. Gundlapalli hopes the findings will help veterans get the care they need.

“Veterans hopefully will come forward, because there is still social stigma… in terms of sexual trauma, so we’re hoping this will raise awareness so that veterans will come forward and seek care in the VA,” he says.

Researchers from the University of Utah, Utah State University and the VA in Palo Alto collaborated on the study published online in the Psychiatry Journal of the American Medical Association. They say the findings underscore the importance of trauma-specific interventions for veterans.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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