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Study reveals lasting effects of sexual assault among female veterans

Diana Danis was 19 when she was first sexually assaulted in the military.

Now, at 64, Danis still feels the physical and psychological effects from the event: difficulty sleeping, back pain, and grinding her teeth at night.

Danis is part of a growing population of older female veterans who say they experienced sexual assault while in the military. A senior adviser at the Women Veteran Social Justice Network advocacy group, she now helps veterans file claims for post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from sexual assault.

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On Wednesday, researchers reported that about 13 percent of female veterans over 55 have experienced sexual assault. The findings were presented at the North American Menopause Society meeting.

Researchers and practitioners tend to think of women of reproductive age when they think about things like trauma, said lead study author Carolyn Gibson, a psychologist and researcher in the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System. This bias can mean that older women veterans aren’t screened for sexual trauma and also less likely to come forward.

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