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OEF/OIF Servicewomen’s Post-Deployment Readjustment: Mental Health, Sexual Assault and Other Factors Associated with Use of Guns/Weapons for Personal Safety

Sadler AG, Mengeling M, Torner J, Martin B, Booth B. OEF/OIF Servicewomen’s Post-Deployment Readjustment: Mental Health, Sexual Assault and Other Factors Associated with Use of Guns/Weapons for Personal Safety. Poster session presented at: AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting; 2015 Jun 15; Minneapolis, MN.


Research Objective: To determine if OEF/OIF servicewomen have guns/weapons nearby for use in personal safety post-deployment and if PTSD, depression, sexual assault in military (SAIM) and population characteristics are associated with this defensive action. Study Design: Cross-sectional retrospective study. Participants completed a telephone interview assessing deployment experiences, socio-demographics, trauma exposures, health outcomes, and post-deployment readjustment. Population Studied: Community sample of a Mid-western cohort of 979 OEF/OIF active component (AC) (50%) and Reserve/National Guard (RNG) (50%) servicewomen who deployed at least once to Iraq or Afghanistan, other combat locations, or elsewhere outside of the continental United States. Principal Findings: After returning home from deployment, 21% of servicewomen acknowledged keeping guns/weapons nearby for safety. Over a third (36%) reported they patrol their house, checking doors and windows for security. Those who patrol home are more likely to keep guns/weapons nearby (41% vs. 9%, p < .0001). Positive mental health screens were associated with keeping guns/weapons nearby: PTSD (48% (52/108) vs., no PTSD 17% (150/870), p < .0001); Depression: [41% (60/148) vs. 17% (142/830), p < .0001]. More than half (55%) of servicewomen had children, and those with children were less likely to report they kept their guns/weapons nearby (17% vs. 25%; p = 0.002.). There was no difference by marital status. Women sexually assaulted in military (SAIM) were more likely to have guns/weapons nearby [30% (59/195) vs. 18% (143/782), p = 0.0002]. Post-deployment concern that they might lose control and hurt someone was reported by 18% of participants, and women acknowledging this concern were more likely to have a weapon nearby [43% (38/89) vs. 18% (164/889), p < .0001]. No differences were found in having weapons/guns for safety with regard to AC vs RNG service. Half of participants had sought post-deployment mental health (MH) care. Those who did were more likely to have a gun/weapon nearby [34% (82/244) vs. 16% (120/733), p < .0001]. Conclusions: Servicewomen frequently kept guns/weapons nearby and patrolled their houses for safety post-deployment. Women with PTSD, depression, SAIM history, who reported concern they might lose control and hurt someone, and who sought MH care were more likely to have a gun/weapon nearby than women without these conditions or concerns. Future research is indicated. Implications for Policy or Practice: Assessment of women's post-deployment fears and safety-related activities is essential in clinical assessments of post-deployment readjustment and the treatment of PTSD and depression. Recognition of the potential risks that guns/weapons in the homes may pose for military women and their families is a vital public health concern.

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