Date of Award

Spring 6-7-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

John W. Thoburn

Second Advisor/Committee Member

David G. Stewart

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Margaret Brown

Abstract

Military sexual trauma (MST) represents a significant, endemic concern in the United States Armed Forces. Although approximately 50% of individuals who experience MST are male, few studies have been published examining the overall experience of males who survived MST, and no known project has recruited a sample unaffiliated with Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Therefore, this study investigated the immediate and enduring ecosystemic effects of MST on male service members and veterans recruited entirely outside the VHA system. To evaluate the depth and richness of human experience, 12 participants—10 veterans and two active duty service members (50% Euro-American, 58% partnered, 75% heterosexual, 50% Army, 100% enlisted rank, median age 48 years) who experienced MST were interviewed using narrative inquiry qualitative methodology. Data analysis was conducted through an eight-step process utilizing an ecosystemic framework. Thematic data analysis revealed 28 themes, 10 categories, and 4 concepts representing participants’ experiences of MST. The concepts that emerged were (a) the MST events, (b) Intrapersonal effects attributed to MST, (c) Interpersonal effects attributed to MST, and (d) Contextual factors related to MST. Diversity in sexually violent MST events coupled with perpetrator demographics and relationships were identified to directly influence the systemic effects of MST. On the intrapersonal level, underlying categories of externalization, internalization, negative physical effects, and factors of recovery emerged from the data. Interpersonally, the three fundamental categories identified were interactions with perpetrators, family, and service members. The final concept of contextual factors relevant to MST demonstrates that experiences of sexual violence were unique due to the military environment in which they occurred, especially in regard to the military command structure and protective factors. Study findings illuminate the far-reaching and recursive nature of MST and how sexual violence in a military setting uniquely impacts individuals’ lives and interpersonal functioning. Although further research is needed to identify effective ways to increase education about MST, prevent MST, encourage disclosure, and provide treatment of MST for individual survivors, families, and military units, the findings of this study provide important evidence and insight into the diversity in MST experiences and the persistent ecosystemic effects of MST in males.

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