PTSD in sexual assault victims differs from that in combat veterans - Our picture of PTSD is inaccurate due to an overwhelming focus on PTSD in combat veterans

by Tom Cloyd - 1 min. read - (reviewed 2023-01-20:1815 PT)

Most research on PTSD focuses on combat veterans. Not surprisingly, they are overwhelmingly male. The result of this is a description of how PTSD manifests which does not well fit sexual assault victims, most of whom are female.

Combat veteran PTSD research reports outnumber those on sexual assault PTSD victims by more than 10 to 1. The result is that descriptions of PTSD symptom patterns in this research do not accurately depict the experience of sexual assault victims, because most combat veterans with PTSD are male, while most sexual assault PTSD victims are female.

Also, this focus on male combat veterans does not relfect the fact that “…the number of women diagnosed with the disorder [is] estimated to be two to three times higher than that of men.”1

“…The limited research on PTSD in survivors of sexual assault shows us that there are significant differences in the manifestation of the disorder between these two populations.”2

Somatic pain is more common with combat veterans, and it localizes in very different parts of the body than is the case with sexual assault victims.

Sexual assault victims who were assaulted as children tend to develop sexual compulsions, something not seen much in combat veteran PTSD victims.

  1. Anzalone, J., Ramos-Goyette, S., Morganelli, M., & Krevosky, M. (2022). Differences in Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: How Trauma-Type and Sex Contribute to the Published Research. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 23(1), 347-366–347. ^

  2. Schepke, R. (2022, December 29). Psychologists raise concerns about the state of PTSD research – are sexual assault survivors being overlooked? PsyPost. ^


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