Military Women And Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I remember back in the late 80’s when there was a massive push from the liberal left to allow women into combat roles in the U.S. military. There were several aruguments against such a policy, not the least of which was the physical strength and physical size differences between the two sexes.

But one argument did come up that feminists everywhere immediately labeled as “sexist” and “neanderthal.”

That argument was one of psychological stress and how the two sexes handle it differently. For a long time, the feminists argued that there was no difference between how men and women react under stressful situations and liberals everywhere bought into it. Until now.

USA Today published an article about just this very issue and the realities of how combat affects women. From the article:

More than 182,000 women have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding region — about 11% of U.S. troops deployed, the Pentagon says.

But the cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among women veterans is a higher percentage:

The ranks of psychologically wounded from this war are far larger. In 2006, nearly 3,800 women diagnosed with PTSD were treated by the VA. They accounted for 14% of a total 27,000 recent veterans treated for PTSD last year.

In June, the Defense Department’s Mental Health Task Force reported that the number of women suffering from combat trauma might be higher than reported. It cited “a potential barrier” for women needing mental-health treatment as “their need to show the emotional strength expected of military members.”

Other factors also come into play here as well.

Many women become overly protective. Even the innocent pop of a biscuit tube on a kitchen counter can speed the heart, Rathbun says. When young soldiers left Camp Victory and didn’t return, she thought of her 21-year-old son. “Women are protective, nurturing. I couldn’t do either,” she says. “I couldn’t prevent them from dying.”

“Women do have to prove themselves more,” says VA spokeswoman Kerri Childress, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran. “They have to work really, really hard to look tough.”

All that pressure must go somewhere, Resick says. Men with PTSD often are angry and act out aggressively. Women often turn inward and become depressed, she says. Both men and women “try not to deal with it” and often take years to seek counseling, Resick says.

Seventeen percent of female veterans use VA health services, compared with 11% of men. “We may be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Kimerling says, adding that more women are likely to seek help as they return home with unresolved trauma.

But back in the 80’s, the feminists assured us that this wouldn’t happen, that women in combat would stand the pressure just as well as men.

If so, then why the need for USA Today to report on the stresses women are facing in combat? Why the difference in percentages? Shouldn’t they be the same for both sexes?

Perhaps it is time to take another look at the policy of women in combat, not from any sexist point of view, but for the health of the women themselves. The stories and data contained in the excerpts above are not “sexist” nor are they “neanderthal” in the least bit. According to the author of the USA Today article and the women interviewed therein, they are reality.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Mental Toll Of War Hitting Female Servicemembers
Andrea Stone
USA Today
January 2, 2008

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