Assailant identity and self-reported nondisclosure of military sexual trauma in partnered women veterans

Rebecca K. Blais, Emily Brignone, Jamison D. Fargo, Nathan W. Galbreath, Adi V. Gundlapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objective: Department of Veterans Affairs estimates of military sexual trauma (MST) suggest 27% of female veterans have experienced MST. However, Department of Defense data (Department of Defense, 2014) show that a subgroup of active-duty women do not report sexual assaults to a military authority, suggesting barriers to disclosure exist among military samples. No study of female veterans has examined rates of nondisclosure among those with previous screens for MST; these data could inform screening efforts and establishment of safe havens for candid disclosures. Method: Using an explanatory sequential mixed-methods survey, a history of MST, and postservice MST disclosures during screening and their associations with demographic, assault, and screening-setting characteristics were evaluated in 359 female veterans. Open-ended responses regarding barriers to disclosure were analyzed using editing analysis style. Results: Eighty-one percent (n = 289) reported MST. Of these, 50% (n = 143) reported a prior screening and 25% (n = 35) reported they did not disclose their true MST status. Veterans who experienced MST by a unit-member assailant were significantly less likely to disclose (adjusted odds ratio = 4.75, 95% confidence interval = 1.20 -18.30). Disclosure barriers included stigma, experiential avoidance, and discomfort with the screening setting. Conclusion: Creative interventions to reduce nondisclosure among female veterans, with specific attention to those assaulted by a unit member, are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-474
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Mixed methods
  • Nondisclosure of military sexual trauma
  • Sexual assault
  • Treatment barriers
  • Women veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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