A new study has found that military veterans who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely to experience incidents of sexual assault while on active-duty compared to non-LGB service members.

The significantly higher rate of sexual assault experienced by these demographics increases the likelihood of enduring symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression later in life, the study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found.

“Our study highlights critical information: LGB veterans were more likely to experience sexual assault while serving in the military," lead author Dr. Carrie Lucas said. “Now is the time to further understand not only the experiences of veterans, but to understand current trends within the military to provide real-time prevention, training, and interventions, as needed.”

Current trends from those surveyed in the study indicate that while on active duty, 32.7 percent of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population — male and female — experienced some form of sexual assault, compared to 16.4 percent of non-LGB personnel.

Of the lesbian and bisexual female veterans who participated in the study, 57.5 percent reported experiencing sexual assault, compared to 37.4 percent of non-LGB female veterans.

About 16 percent of gay and bisexual male veteran participants reported at least one incident of sexual assault while on active duty, compared to 3.5 percent of heterosexual male vets.

Research has established a direct connection between sexual assault in the military and PTSD and depression, the report said. Looking at the same participants through a PTSD or depression lens, the aforementioned correlation is evident.

Over 40 percent of LGB male and female veteran study participants reported symptoms of PTSD, compared to under 30 percent of non-LGB veterans. And 48 percent of LGB respondents reported experiencing depression, compared to 36 percent of heterosexual respondents.

“More research is needed to understand the factors that may predict sexual assault in the military,” the study says, “particularly among LGB service members, as well as how to best address the mental health needs of veterans regardless of their identity.”

J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.

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