Allostatic Perspectives in Women Veterans With a History of Childhood Sexual Assault.

Research paper by Maureen Wimberly MW Groër, Elizabeth A EA Kostas-Polston, Christina C Dillahunt-Aspillaga, Theresa M TM Beckie, Versie V Johnson-Mallard, Allyson A Duffy, Mary E ME Evans

Indexed on: 14 Apr '16Published on: 14 Apr '16Published in: Biological research for nursing


Women veterans have increased reports of sexual victimization compared to women in general, including childhood sexual assault (CSA) before military service, increasing the risk of military sexual trauma. Findings from recent studies reveal negative health effects following a history of CSA. There is a strong relationship between CSA and revictimization in civilian and military life, which may contribute to allostatic load.(1) To determine the relationship between women veterans' CSA history and later sexual assault history and (2) to determine the relationships between women veterans' CSA and primary mediators and secondary and tertiary outcomes of allostasis.Cross-sectional.Women (N = 81), 18-70 years old, veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.Participants completed questionnaires and blood and hair samples were collected. Several scales were utilized: Posttraumatic Checklist-Military, Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale, Pain Outcomes Questionnaire-Short Form, Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Profile of Mood States, and an investigator-developed sexual harassment/assault instrument.Thirty-three percent of participants reported CSA; of these, 38.5% reported military sexual assault and 70.3% sexual assault during civilian life. Those with CSA had higher cholesterol, triglycerides, perceived stress scores, and greater pain and fatigue than those without CSA. Hair cortisol was marginally lower in women with CSA when PSS was controlled, suggesting a dampened hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.These data suggest that some women veterans with a history of CSA may have increased allostatic load and be at increased risk for a variety of later life illnesses.