Late Breaking News
Filling In The Gaps
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), July 2013, PTSD, TBI, Trauma
The end goal of the survey is to provide more effective treatment for these patients, explained Emily Voekel, MA, a research coordinator at WISER.
“If we’re thinking about evaluating treatment effectively, we need a well-researched assessment tool,” Voekel said. Without such a scale, it is difficult to evaluate treatment progress in an accurate way.
It is also difficult to know what treatment should be provided in the first place. There is a saying that is occasionally used by VA’s National Center for PTSD: “MST is not just PTSD plus sex.”
Because the two are frequently co-occurring, with most victims of MST developing PTSD, treatment focuses on PTSD without acknowledging that the effects of MST might go beyond that.
“We know PTSD adds so much burden to the global health of a woman. That alone can add 15 years on her life in terms of aging,” Menifee said. “But what must we do for MST besides treating PTSD?”
The survey also is designed to help VA recognize the need to treat the relatively obvious effects of MST.
“Some of the things we’re targeting in our survey, such as body image and eating disorders, are highly associated with sexual trauma in the civilian population,” Menefee said. “But they they’re not being addressed by VA just because there’s not any current [veteran-specific] evidence that says it’s needed.”
In addition, the developers said they hope the results of the survey will aid in the prevention of MST.
“There seems to be a need for a cultural shift to hold the perpetrators more accountable,” Menefee said. “Women in the military are told not to go to their officer’s office alone and not to go across barracks unless you have a buddy with you. You don’t hear that from men. You don’t hear that men are being held accountable for preventing sexual harassment.”
Though the study is unfunded, the research team is doing its best to get a broad cross-section of veterans, both in and outside of VA treatment. The survey will be disseminated to MST centers around the country.
Voekel, a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, is working to recruit veterans from her university’s student population.
“Veterans struggle with specific things as students and have extra responsibilities,” Voekel explained. They also will provide the perspective of veterans not in VA treatment.
Within six months, the team hopes to have at least 200 respondents. Then, the researchers will determine what questions are working and which are not, revise the survey, and recruit another 200-400 respondents. The data from that round will be analyzed and used to create the scale.
Along the way, they will be seeking to get these respondents into treatment. While there are certainly knowledge gaps, the researchers noted, VA remains the best source for MST care.
“VA has been providing MST services since 1992,” Menefee said. “VA is a specialized place for these specialized problems.”
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