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Women Veterans' Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Assault in the Context of Military Service: Implications for Supporting Women's Health and Well-Being

Melissa E Dichter, Clara Wagner, Gala True
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2018, 33 (6): 843-864
27655865
Women who have served in the military in the United States experience high rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual assault (SA). The military setting presents challenges and opportunities not experienced in other employment contexts that may compound the negative impacts of IPV/SA on women's lives. The purpose of this study was to explore the intersection of women's experiences of IPV/SA and military service through analysis of women veterans' narrative accounts. We conducted in-depth face-to-face qualitative interviews with 25 women veterans receiving primary care at a U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We draw upon Adler and Castro's (2013) Military Occupational Mental Health Model to frame our understanding of the impact of IPV/SA as a stressor in the military cultural context and to inform efforts to prevent, and support women service members who have experienced, these forms of violence. Our findings highlight the impact of IPV/SA on women's military careers, including options for entering and leaving military service, job performance, and opportunities for advancement. Women's narratives also reveal ways in which the military context constrains their options for responding to and coping with experiences of IPV/SA. These findings have implications for prevention of, and response to, intimate partner or sexual violence experienced by women serving in the military and underscore the need for both military and civilian communities to recognize and address the negative impact of such violence on women service members before, during, and after military service.

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