The relationship among sexual abuse, ethnicity, and posttraumatic stress disorder in female veterans
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The effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among male veterans has been associated with combat exposure. Most female veterans with PTSD have little or no combat exposure and PTSD has been found to be associated primarily with sexual victimization. Female veterans who have been sexually assaulted and have PTSD often present differently in therapy than male combat veterans. Archival data were analyzed to determine if 270 female veterans with a combined history of childhood sexual assault and adulthood (civilian) sexual assault (CSA/ASA), adult (civilian) sexual assault (ASA), or military sexual assault (MSA) differed on the three symptom clusters of PTSD; hyperarousal, reexperiencing, and avoidance on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-1). Two-sample t-tests were employed and significant differences were found between women veterans with MSA and those with ASA on symptoms of reexperiencing. Data were analyzed using a MANOVA followed by an ANOVA to determine if African American and Caucasian female veterans differed on avoidance, somatization, and social interactions as measured by the CAPS-1, CES-D (somatization subscale), QOLI-BV, and the BSI subscales. Significant differences were found between African Americans and Caucasians on somatic symptoms. Results of this study revealed that despite ethnic differences female veterans were more similar on measures of avoidance, quality of life, family, and social interactions. The cumulative effect of trauma was not supported in this study but women veterans with a history of MSA reported more symptoms than women veterans with a history of only ASA. Caucasian women veterans endorsed more somatic symptoms on the CES-D than African American women. These results are contrary to other research findings. It may be that traditional African American female veterans utilize community resources to cope with stressors that do not effect occupational and/or social functioning. As women veterans present for therapy, clinicians are to be advised that women veterans with CSA may possess adequate coping skills that were utilized in order for them to function effectively in the Armed Services and that the most recent trauma is likely causing the most distress. Previous coping strategies should be examined if other sexual assaults are perpetrated on female veterans.