Military Sexual Trauma and Addiction
Sexual assault in the military is receiving great attention, not only as a devastating issue, but also because of its close connection with substance abuse and addiction. The Pentagon estimates that as many as 26,000 members of the military will be sexually assaulted this year, a number that is up from 19,000 in 2011. Of those many cases, only 3,000 cases were reported, and just 238 ended with a conviction. Despite the increasing awareness of sexual assault and the government’s stated desire to control the issue, more and more soldiers endure it annually. Many of the victims self-medicate their pain with drugs or alcohol, so they then have two problems to overcome. However, with the right help recovery is possible, so soldiers can continue serving their country as they also overcome these debilitating conditions
Sexual Assault, PTSD and Addiction in the Military
Sexual assault creates several kinds of pain. Victims experience the acute trauma of the event itself, but they also face long-term problems through bullying and castigations if they report the crime. That kind of chronic, long-term stress is emotionally painful, so the condition seems to last much longer than the sexual assault event. Survivors of sexual assault may also experience the following symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
- Panic attacks
- Constant fear and suspecting others
- Eating disorders
- Compulsive behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Substance abuse
These symptoms often worsen over time, and they can last for years or even a lifetime. Drugs and alcohol temporarily relieve the emotional pain that comes from sexual assault, so many soldiers simply abuse drugs rather than reporting the crime.
How Military Life Encourages Sexual Assault
The following aspects of military culture enable sexual assault:
- Many survivors avoid reporting assaults for fear of being seen as weak
- Survivors are often outranked by their assailants
- Chain-of-command issues make it difficult for lower-ranking survivors to receive justice
- Close quarters with mixed genders increase opportunities for assault
While the Pentagon and other military institutions seek to improve this problem, thousands of soldiers continue to be victimized. However, professional treatment is available for those who bravely come forward.
Addiction Treatment for Sexually-Assaulted Soldiers
Addiction can develop as soldiers self-medicate the effects of sexual assault with drugs and alcohol, but specialized treatment is available to address both of these problems at the same time. It is critical that soldiers receive the following treatment for their recovery to last:
- A thorough diagnosis of any co-occurring emotional disorders
- Intensive personal counseling
- Support group gatherings
- Empowering education
- Learning coping skills and emotion management techniques
With the right help, soldiers can recover from these debilitating problems.
Help for Addicted Soldiers who Survive Sexual Assault
The sooner soldiers call for help for sexual assault and drug abuse, the sooner you can begin recovery. Our toll-free helpline is open 24 hours a day, and our admissions counselors can connect you with the most effective treatment programs available. Every day you endure the pain and risk of addiction is another day of victimization, so overcome these risks and reach out for professional help right now.