Challenges Facing Today’s

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Challenges Facing Today’s

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Presentations text content in Challenges Facing Today’s


Challenges Facing Today’s


Warriors and


Joan Collins



April 21, 2016


Some Relevant Facts

Women comprise more than 15% of the military; 20% of Nat’l Guard and Reserves on active duty.

One fifth of new military recruits are women.


are 1.8 million (8%) women veterans. This number is projected to rise

to 10


of total number of veterans by


11.6% of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are female.


Some Relevant Facts

As of Oct 2009,more

than 212,000


have been deployed to combat areas in

the current wars—compared

with 7500 in Vietnam and 41,000 in the first Gulf War.


Iraq, the distinction between combat and combat support has been virtually eliminated, since most of the injuries come from IEDs and there are no front lines.


Some Relevant Facts

January 17, 2013

the decision was made

to officially allow women to serve in combat roles.

August 21

, 2015, first two women


from Army Ranger Course.

March 18, 2016 President Obama named

Lori Robinson to become the first woman to

lead a combatant command.


Some Relevant Facts

More than 1/3 of OIF/OEF vets (both men and women) have mental or behavioral diagnoses. Of the 34,000 diagnosed with PTSD, 3800 are women (2005 data).

Having a history

of childhood abuse—which is higher in the military for both men and women, and higher for women than men overall—makes women more vulnerable to mental and behavioral problems. (2008 Article found lifetime prevalence for women of 38% and for men 6%--


, et. al.


Some Relevant Facts

Women veterans are four times more likely to be homeless than the female civilian population- seems to be highly correlated with the incidence of MST. Homelessness is higher in veteran male population as well as compared to the civilian population.

38% of

women experience depressive

symptoms post

deployment compared to

32% for

men. (


of General Internal Medicine).


Some Relevant Facts

The rate of suicide for female veterans is 6 times the rate for civilian females, almost to the rate of male veterans. For women ages 18-29 the rates is 12 times the rate of non veterans. ( LA Times 3/3/2016



suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14/100,000 from 4/100,000 back home, unlike for men which rises only slightly.


such as helplessness, hopelessness, alienation and isolation are all known to contribute to depression and suicide.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve


may be placed in positions


which they have not been highly trained.


example, they could find themselves in combat yet not have extensive training in that. –

Could be trained

to be a driver and find themselves in lead vehicle in a convey and under attack.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve

Women often report feeling increased pressure to prove themselves capable in their military roles. Because of this women will often push themselves too hard and injuries, heat stroke can result.

Men tend to accept each other as good soldiers- women more likely to have to prove themselves capable.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve

Women are often not recognized as readily as men are for their military service. With less than 1% of American citizens serving in the military, the reality of the role of the female warrior is generally not known.

Many are not aware that women are serving in combat roles and their contributions are often minimized.

Women can struggle to find other women in the community they can feel a connection to after their return from deployment.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve


are more frequently the primary caregivers for their children, and being away from their children can be quite challenging.

Increased communication between the female soldier and her family during deployment can also create increased stress, especially when there are problems and the soldier feels powerless to be helpful



Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve

Women often return home from deployment to find families that are functioning quite well without them and do not welcome their

involvement or input.

At times, it can be difficult for women upon their return to demonstrate love for their children, perhaps experiencing a numbing of their emotions and possibly even being triggered by them. This can result in guilt.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve

Research demonstrates higher

divorce rates for women in the military than for men.



Army, divorce

rate is 2.9 % for men and 8.5% for


In the Marines, the divorce

rate is 3.3% for


and 9.2% for

women. The difficulties faced by these fractured families can further increase the stress on a deployed soldier.

The incidence of domestic abuse climbs in the presence of PTSD and depression.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve

There is often little

opportunity for bonding with other women

in the military because

of the relative rarity of women in some units


it can be difficult to bond with the men due to the and fear of being labeled “the dyke, the bitch or the whore”.

Women don’t want

to be categorized the same as other

women who have been negatively labeled. This can increase social isolation.


Stressors Unique to Women Who Serve


a female is not able to find a way to be fully accepted

she can

lose the


of unit cohesion and


having a


of belonging and support by others.


find themselves on the margin of a culture

during an exceedingly stressful time and

can feel tremendous alienation, isolation and lack of support.


Military Sexual Trauma


sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by VA to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during his or her military service. The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D) and is “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.” Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”


Military Sexual Trauma

1/3 of women applying for VA healthcare services report rape or attempted rape while in the service.


these, 37% reported multiple rapes, and 14% reported gang rape.- 10% higher rates for women than men.

A change in DOD policy in 2005 allowing sexual assaults to be reported confidentially in “restricted reports” led to the number of reported assaults across the military rising

to 40



Military Sexual Trauma

More frequently women sustain a combination of sexual harassment and/or rape


combat trauma. These sexual traumas are up to 10 X more likely in the combat setting for women then for men. Women tend to put up with more harassment.

Rates of both sexual harassment and rape rise during wartime.


Military Sexual Trauma

Rape or assault by a fellow soldier is


traumatic because it is a breech of military cohesion. Trust

of fellow soldiers is essential in

the combat setting because

personal safety literally

depends on your fellow soldiers.


person who is supposed to help protect your life may be the one who is threatening you.

And what


the perpetrator

is your C.O?


Military Sexual Trauma

The Army’s

system for reporting and trying sexual offenses (Victims Advocates at most bases)

does not appear

to be



Only 10% of reports result in


Almost half

of women who reported a sexually hostile environment were dissatisfied with the response they received.


Military Sexual Trauma

Often women say that it didn’t seem worth it to report the offense. Punishments for the perpetrator were frequently minimal or nonexistent.

Many women report seeing other women who do report these crimes retaliated against or lose their military careers.


Military Sexual Trauma

Two days after viewing the film “The Invisible War”

Defense Secretary Leon


anetta changed the requirement that a military person must report

a sexual assault to


immediate commander- now

the report must be given to a person with a rank of at least

a colonel.


women gain rank with the

combat restrictions

lifted, there will be

more opportunity for women

to serve at these higher levels.


PTSD in Women

16% of women in the first Gulf War were diagnosed with PTSD, compared with 8% of men. Why the disparity



traumatic experiences are more psychologically toxic than others: rape is one of them, followed closely by combat exposure


Military Sexual Trauma

Although both men and women who join the service have more pre-enlistment trauma than civilians, women in this group

tend to have


trauma than

men in this group.

A history of childhood


increases the risk of developing PTSD in the face of later trauma

Women who were abused as children frequently lose their self-protective

instincts resulting in increased traumatic events.


Military Sexual Trauma


with childhood

sexual assault

are 7 times more likely to


PTSD than women without

sexual assault


Women with civilian

adult sexual

assault are 5 time more likely to


PTSD than



adult sexual assault


The rate

of MST

in women with PTSD is 31% and only 1% for men with PTSD.

( VA stats)


with military sexual assault are 9 times



to develop


than women





How Can We Help?

How can we best support these women as soldiers and veterans, given the isolation, shame, fear, and depression so many experience?

Creating safety, connection with healthy others, validation and treatment can make all the difference for the female soldier or veteran and their families who are also affected by their struggles.


How Can We Help?

Provide resources to stabilize difficult circumstance such as referral to a Safe house, assistance with long term housing, childcare, job training, supportive counseling

Assist women veterans to get connected to both medical and mental health care

Educate the community to these pressing issues

Advocate with legislators for resources to provide women veteran support and treatment


How Can We Help?

Other ideas?



For additional information please visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National


enter for PTSD

and click on the Tab- “ For Professionals”



Kayla Williams:


my Rifle More than


: Young and Female in the U.S. Army


W.W. Norton and Company 2006.

The invisible war



, K. 2012


Comes Marching Home, by Laura Browder and




stress in Women

Corbett, Sarah.

The Women’s War.

NY Times March 18, 2007




Women’s Action Network

aims to reform

health care and benefits for women and their families, offering legal services and domestic and sexual violence support. Free, confidential mental health counseling can also be found



The nonprofit

American Women Veterans

advocates for awareness of the challenges women face when transitioning from the military offering childcare and housing resources, while

Grace After Fire

nationally assists with accessing education benefits and military peer networking support.

Volunteers of America offers supportive services and reintegration programs for homeless veterans, with

local resources available


Employment opportunities for women can also be found at


, which connects veterans with







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