Military Sexual Trauma: Gender, Military Cultures, and the Medicalization of Abuse in Contemporary America

Sexual violence is a serious problem within armed services. This article explores intra-service rape in branches of the U.S. military from the 1990s to the present. The article begins by establishing the parameters of the crisis of sexual abuse within the U.S. armed services. Second, it explores systematic failures to recognize forms of suffering. Victim-survivors in the military are vulnerable to military-specific obstacles to reporting their abuse and being believed. Attention is paid to differences by gender and sexual orientation. Third, it analyses the medicalization of suffering in the modern military and its effects. What meanings are assigned to ‘military sexual trauma’ (MST) and how has that label affected victim-survivors of rape or sexual assault? The article concludes by arguing that the concept of ‘trauma’ as it is applied to victims of sexual abuse does a formidable amount of political and ideological work.