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Lower sexual satisfaction and function mediate the association of assault military sexual trauma and relationship satisfaction in partnered female service members/veterans

APA Citation:

Blais, R. K. (2019). Lower sexual satisfaction and function mediate the association of assault military sexual trauma and relationship satisfaction in partnered female service members/veterans. Family Process. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12449

Abstract Created by REACH:

Military sexual trauma is any form of assault or harassment experienced during military service. This study examined whether sexual assault (i.e., sexual contact through force or threat of force) and/or sexual harassment (i.e., verbal pressure or pressure for sexual favors) during military service were associated with sexual functioning (e.g., low sexual desire and arousal), sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction among female service members/veterans in romantic relationships. A cross-sectional study with 817 partnered service members/veterans was conducted using questionnaires to examine how military sexual trauma (i.e., sexual assault and sexual harassment) impacts current couple relationships. Results showed that past military sexual trauma, particularly sexual assault, was associated with current sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, and relationship satisfaction.


Mental health
Physical health

Branch of Service:


Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study
Quantitative Study


Blais, Rebecca K.


Little is known about the association of military sexual trauma (MST) and relationship satisfaction among partnered female service members/veterans (SM/Vs). Extant civilian literature shows a strong association between sexual trauma and poorer relationship outcomes, and theory suggests that sexual function and satisfaction may mediate this association. Given that as many as 40% of female SM/Vs report MST and roughly half of female veterans are partnered and in their peak sexual years, it is critical to understand the association of MST, relationship satisfaction, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction in this population. Female SM/Vs (N = 817) completed a demographic inventory, self-report measures of MST, relationship satisfaction, sexual function, and sexual satisfaction. One hundred fifty-one (18.48%) participants did not experience MST. Three hundred eighty-eight (47.49%) reported that they experienced harassment-only MST, and 278 (34.03%) reported assault MST. At the bivariate level, lower relationship satisfaction was associated with lower sexual function and satisfaction with large effect sizes. Assault MST was associated with lower relationship satisfaction and sexual function and satisfaction with small-to-medium effect sizes. No differences in relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and function between those with harassment-only and no MST were observed. Mediation analyses demonstrated that lower sexual function and satisfaction mediated the association of assault MST and relationship satisfaction. Couples’ therapy offered to SM/Vs with MST should screen for type of MST, sexual function, and satisfaction. Addressing the sequelae of MST and increasing sexual function and satisfaction in these partnerships may be critical treatment targets.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

John Wiley & Sons

Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, Utah State University, RKB


relationship satisfaction, military sexual trauma, sexual dysfunction, sexual dissatisfaction, female service members/veterans

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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