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A longitudinal analysis of women veterans’ partner violence perpetration: The roles of interpersonal trauma and posttraumatic stress symptoms

APA Citation:

Portnoy, G. A., Relyea, M. R., Street, A. E., Haskell, S. G., & Iverson, K. M. (2020). A longitudinal analysis of women veterans’ partner violence perpetration: The roles of interpersonal trauma and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Family Violence, 35, 361372. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00061-3

Abstract Created by REACH:

Military sexual trauma includes experiences of sexual harassment (e.g., unwanted threatening or repeated sexual attention) and sexual assault (e.g., sexual contact against one’s will) during one’s time in the military. Experiencing military sexual trauma may predict adverse outcomes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization and perpetration. More specifically, those who experience sexual trauma and PTSD may be at increased risk of IPV victimization or perpetration in other relationships due to a decreased ability to manage risk and regulate emotions, which is particularly true for women because they are more likely to experience military sexual trauma than men. This longitudinal study of 187 women Veterans examined whether a history of military sexual trauma, measured at baseline (Time 1), was associated with being a victim of physical, sexual, and psychological IPV 18 months later (Time 2) and both IPV victimization and perpetration six months after that (Time 3). Additionally, PTSD measured at Time 2 was examined as a link between experiences of military sexual trauma and IPV. In this sample, military sexual assault predicted greater PTSD symptoms and, in turn, IPV victimization and perpetration, indicating that PTSD symptoms may partially explain the association between military sexual assault and IPV victimization and perpetration.



Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Portnoy, Galina A., Relyea, Mark R., Street, Amy E., Haskell, Sally G., Iverson, Katherine M.


Significant research has focused on intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization among women Veterans, yet much less is known about women Veterans’ IPV perpetration. Although military sexual trauma (MST) is a predictor of IPV victimization, military sexual assault (MSA), a component of MST, may predict especially adverse consequences for women Veterans. This study examined the unique effects of MSA on IPV victimization of, and perpetration by, women Veterans, and investigated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and prior IPV victimization as potential mediators of IPV perpetration. Participants included 187 women Veterans drawn from a larger web-based survey. We assessed the two components of MST (MSA and harassment) at Time 1 (T1), PTSD symptoms at Time 2 (T2), IPV victimization at T2 and Time 3 (T3), and IPV perpetration at T3. MSA predicted multiple subtypes of IPV victimization and perpetration, whereas harassment predicted neither. Those who reported MSA were more likely to experience T3 psychological and sexual IPV victimization, with PTSD symptoms significantly mediating this path. MSA was also directly related to T3 psychological IPV perpetration and indirectly related to physical and sexual IPV perpetration through PTSD symptoms. MSA was directly related to T2 PTSD symptoms while T2 IPV victimization was directly related to T3 IPV perpetration. These findings underscore that women Veterans’ IPV perpetration may be in response to their own IPV victimization through self-defense and/or due to their PTSD symptoms. Results support prevention, screening, and treatment for IPV victimization and PTSD symptoms to lower risk of future IPV revictimization and perpetration.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

VA Connecticut Healthcare System, GAP
Yale School of Medicine, GAP
VA Connecticut Healthcare System, MRR
Yale School of Medicine, MRR
Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, AES
Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, AES
VA Connecticut Healthcare System, SGH
Yale School of Medicine, SGH
Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, KMI
Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, KMI


intimate partner violence, military sexual trauma, military sexual assault, women veterans, veteran health, posttraumatic stress disorder, intimate partner violence perpetration

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This research was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) as part of Dr. Katherine Iverson’s HSR&D Career Development Award (CDA 10–029), and HSR&D Award PPO 17–044 and her Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (USA 14–275). Dr. Iverson is an fellow with the Implementation Research Institute, at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis; through an award from the National Institute of Mental Health (5R25MH08091607) and the VA HSR&D Services, Quality Enhancement Research Initiative.

REACH Newsletter:

  February 2021

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