Women's Experiences of Institutional Betrayal and Perceptions of Institutional Climate following Military Sexual Trauma

Hart, Angela C.
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The purpose of this convergent parallel mixed method study was to examine the role of institutional betrayal (IB) in female post-9/11 veteran MST survivors' (N = 100) disclosure choices, help-seeking experiences, and overall health outcomes. Inductive thematic analysis found worry over not being believed or receiving negative attention and an assumption that nothing would be done were the most cited reasons for survivors not disclosing to the DoD and VA. MST survivors who disclosed cited a need for emotional support, disclosures for the sake of others, and wanting justice. In general, participants who disclosed to a support provider on installation or at the VA received emotional support or felt that the case was mishandled. Ninety-seven percent of MST survivors indicated feelings of IB. This strong presence of IB was mirrored in survivors' qualitative responses. MST survivors discussed specific aspects of military culture that may contribute to the institutional climate (IC) and feelings of IB, such as the military being a 'boys' club,' and authorities not taking ownership of the problem. Survivors' perceptions of IC after experiencing MST were also examined. Common themes emerged, such as feelings for the military not changing, having a bad impression of the military, and feeling betrayed. Results of linear regression analyses indicated that sexual assault severity did not significantly explain MST survivors' negative perceptions of the institutional climate. Sexual assault and sexual harassment frequency only explained 7.1% of the variance in perceptions of IC. Implications for future research and suggestions for practice are discussed.

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institutional betrayal, military sexual trauma, sexual assault, sexual harassment, veterans