Gun under my pillow: Health consequences of the fear of assault among military women

Rose Weitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose - This chapter explores military women's fear of sexual assault, especially while deployed overseas, the strategies they use to manage those fears, and the health consequences of both their fears and their strategies for reducing them. Methodology/approach - Data come from 25 in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted in 2012 and 2013 with women veterans and military members. All participants were under age 45 and had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at some point. Findings - Surprisingly, 44% reported neither concern about sexual assault nor any special strategies taken to prevent it. In contrast, another 44% reported both concern about sexual assault and special strategies taken to prevent it. Finally, 12% reported no special concerns about sexual assault due to the strategies they took to prevent it. For these latter two groups, rape-preventions strategies and the fears that led to them could contribute to lack of exercise, sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Research limitations/implications - This research is based on a small and non-random sample which over-represents southwestern residents, whites, Army members, and commissioned officers, and under-represents African Americans, Navy members, noncommissioned officers, and enlisted personnel. As a result, it cannot be used to extrapolate to the population more generally. It also focuses solely on women's experiences, due to their greater risk of assault, although men's experiences with sexual trauma certainly deserve further study. Finally, the research relied on only one coder, which may have reduced reliability. However, it is less likely to have reduced validity compared to studies utilizing multiple coders, since such studies typically use coders who either share or have been trained to use the main authors' intellectual perspectives. Originality/value - Previous research has looked at the effect of sexual assault on female military members. This chapter extends that research by exploring how fear of rape can affect female military members even if they are not themselves assaulted, with a special focus on its health effects. In addition, previous research on fear of rape in the general population has focused on its social effects. This chapter suggests the need for further research on potential health effects of fear of rape in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-32
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Health Care
StatePublished - 2016


  • Health
  • Mental health
  • Sexual assault
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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