Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Male Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

A while ago I posted a paragraph from an article about homelessness among female veterans that I thought was interesting. It was about "military sexual trauma" and how women are routinely sexually harassed and assaulted in the military.
"Women are more likely to leave the military with a few less reasons to trust the system than men," said Eaves, who herself is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. "It's still true, today, that women suffer from humiliation, intimidation and sexual harassment."

A VA report from 2005 indicated that more than half of all female National Guard and Reserve military members report having been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped while serving in uniform. The problem is so pervasive and so psychologically debilitating that the armed forces have a name for it: "military sexual trauma."
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, "Both women and men can experience sexual harassment or sexual assault during their military service. VA refers to these experiences as military sexual trauma, or MST. Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively impact a person's mental and physical health, even many years later." This video does a good job highlighting the enormity of the problem in the military as well.

While women continue to be sexually harassed at such a great number that they're more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat, the sexual assault of men in the service is also on the rise.

From Newsweek:
Greg Jeloudov was 35 and new to America when he decided to join the Army. Like most soldiers, he was driven by both patriotism for his adopted homeland and the pragmatic notion that the military could be a first step in a career that would enable him to provide for his new family. Instead, Jeloudov arrived at Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training in May 2009, in the middle of the economic crisis and rising xenophobia. The soldiers in his unit, responding to his Russian accent and New York City address, called him a “champagne socialist” and a “commie faggot.” He was, he told NEWSWEEK, “in the middle of the viper’s pit.” Less than two weeks after arriving on base, he was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States. When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, “It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them.”

What happened to Jeloudov is a part of life in the armed forces that hardly anyone talks about: male-on-male sexual assault. In the staunchly traditional military culture, it’s an ugly secret, kept hidden by layers of personal shame and official denial. Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003. For the victims, the experience is a special kind of hell—a soldier can’t just quit his job to get away from his abusers. But now, as the Pentagon has begun to acknowledge the rampant problem of sexual violence for both genders, men are coming forward in unprecedented numbers, telling their stories and hoping that speaking up will help them, and others, put their lives back together. “We don’t like to think that our men can be victims,” says Kathleen Chard, chief of the posttraumatic-stress unit at the Cincinnati VA. “We don’t want to think that it could happen to us. If a man standing in front of me who is my size, my skill level, who has been raped—what does that mean about me? I can be raped, too.”
The article goes on to talk about how women coming forward may be making easier for male survivors to also tell their stories and how the repeal of DADT may make it easier for victims to come forward without fear of being labeled gay and kicked out of the military. I'd definitely recommend reading the whole thing. The experiences of these men parallel those of women survivors, but there is also an extra stigma that surrounds male survivors of sexual assault that makes it even more difficult for men to come forward. It's another high cost of rape culture and it's completely heartbreaking.


  1. The military has a history of covering up these ugly things, as you have been showing us.

    When I served, I was always aware that the females around me were vulnerable to sexual assault and harrassment. But, I, honestly, never gave much thought about the males being vulnerable as well. I mean, not from our own forces.

    Maybe, military leadership will start to see sexual assault is not just about women being "weaker"... if one is getting gang raped, it doesn't matter much how "strong" one is.

  2. This is just sad. The fact that so much sexual violence happens within the military and then swept under the rug is just heartbreaking.

    I'm curious, do you know if the military provides sexual harassment/abuse prevention training or anything like that?

  3. Yeah. While I wouldn't say it's easier for women, we are raised with an awareness that this can happen to us (though never me of course). We also have public survivors we can look to, but men don't have the same thing so I can't even imagine the extra weight of silence.

  4. The video mentions that a unit will be created to handle these sorts of thing (back in 2008), but the article implies that it's not very effective. One of the major complaints is that the Military is moving too slow to handle this issue. The only plus is some VA treatments for PTSD deal specifically with military sexual trauma so some people are at least able to get some semblance of treatment.


What's on your mind?