The Defense Department has found that about one in three military women has been sexually assaulted, a rate twice as high as that among civilians. Follow up studies have also found men and women who have faced sexual trauma in the military are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, with black females disproportionately affected.
This week Patricia Leigh Brown of The New York Times profiled several women who faced sexual trauma while in the military and are now homeless. The video below accompanied her story published on Wednesday.
While male returnees become homeless largely because of substance abuse and mental illness, experts say that female veterans face those problems and more, including the search for family housing and an even harder time finding well-paying jobs. But a common pathway to homelessness for women, researchers and psychologists said, is military sexual trauma, or M.S.T., from assaults or harassment during their service, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of 141,000 veterans nationwide who spent at least one night in a shelter in 2011, nearly 10 percent were women, according to the latest figures available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, up from 7.5 percent in 2009. In part it is a reflection of the changing nature of the American military, where women now constitute 14 percent of active-duty forces and 18 percent of the Army National Guard and the Reserves.
Women who have just completed an intensive therapy program for veterans in Long Beach, Calif., shared their experiences of sexual trauma in the military with the New York Times.
In December 2011 the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that found black female veterans are disproportionately affected by homelessness. [PDF]
According to the report 45% of homeless veterans they identified were black women, 41% white, 7.6% Latinas, and 1.3% were API. The majority of those homeless are veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf Period or after (8/90-present)—including conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.