Military Sexual Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care

The number of women and mothers serving in the United States military has grown substantially in the past decades and more women than ever have seen conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are currently over 200,000 women in active duty in our armed services—20 percent of the total. This percentage is also roughly the same for new recruits. Both of these statistics illustrate that the number of women moving from active duty into civilian life has increased and will continue to increase in the next decade. Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in female Veterans experiencing homelessness in recent years—a female Veteran is four times more likely than her civilian counterpart to experience homelessness upon her return.

Last November, USICH spoke with a female Veteran and an expert on the needs of female Veterans about the experience in the military as a female that may create barriers to stability when they return. While there are many reasons why it is difficult for female Veterans to adjust back to civilian life, the problems resulting from military sexual trauma is one of particular note for service providers. It was recently reported by the Department of Labor that one in five female Veterans has experienced military sexual trauma. Military sexual trauma can be a substantial long-term barrier to stability for female Veterans. An important step to best serve female Veterans is for programs serving them to adopt a trauma-informed care approach. The Department of Labor released a Trauma-informed Care Guide for Serving Women Veterans for program directors and case managers on best practices in a trauma-informed care approach.  

A female Veteran who has experienced homelessness and military sexual trauma, Lisa Bollings, was honored last July by Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for her resilience and for now giving back to female Veterans in need. Her story was shared on NPR and is a testament to the need for trauma-informed care services and practices for women Veterans.

Read more on this important topic:

Guidance on stopping the trauma cycle from Joan Gillece the Director for SAMHSA’s National Center of Trauma-informed Care

A blog post from USICH Deputy Director Jennifer Ho on the Importance of Trauma-Informed Care for mothers experiencing homelessness

A profile of N Street Village's successful program for helping women experiencing homelessness overcome trauma histories

Recommended reading list on trauma, mothers, and children from Ellen Bassuk, the founder and president of the National Center for Family Homelessness and the Director of the Center for Social Innovation