Psychological Consequences of Exposure to Sexual Trauma during Military Service in Female-Identifying Canadian Military Members and Veterans

Hosts : Margaret McKinnon, PhD, McMaster University; LCol (Retd) Alexandra Heber, MD, Veterans Affairs Canada; Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD, Western University; LCdr (Retd) Rosemary Park, MSc, Servicewomen’s Salute; and LCol Suzanne Bailey, MSW, Canadian Forces Health Services Group

Exposure to sexual trauma during military service has been associated with increased rates of depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder. While it is well known that exposure to sexual trauma increases the risk of a host of negative disease courses and well-being factors in other populations, there is a lack of understanding regarding how exposure to sexual trauma affects Canadian female-identified military members and Veterans alike. This workshop engaged participants to discuss the psychological consequences of exposure to sexual trauma during military service among Canadian service women and female-identified Veterans, and mobilized Canadian scholars, clinicians, and policy makers around this issue.

This workshop led to a symposium, held on December 4th, 2019, to further explore themes that were identified and was hosted by Dr. Margaret McKinnon, Dr. Ruth Lanius, LCol (Retd) Alex Heber and LCdr (Retd) Rosemary Park. Some of the key themes discussed in further detail included clinical approaches to treatment concerning sexual misconduct during military service, future research directions, and moral injury in relation to sexual misconduct. The objective of the symposium was to plan tangible next steps forward to address the key issues that were discussed at the CIMVHR Forum workshop.