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Investigating the prevalence and impact of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) on UK women service personnel: implications for mental health, help-seeking and future design of support services

Start date

October 2022


1 fully funded 3-year LISS-DTP CASE studentship (+3 Studentship) in Psychological Medicine at the King’s Centre of Military Health (KCMHR) in partnership with Combat Stress funded through LISS DTP/ESRC


KCMHR and Combat Stress are seeking a PhD candidate. This studentship is a partnership between KCMHR, King’s College London and Combat Stress - the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health. The PhD is funded by the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS-DTP)/ Economic Social Research Council (ESRC).


Very little is known in the UK about the experiences of women service personnel and veterans (those who have left military service) with regards to military sexual trauma (MST) (sexual harassment and/or assault that occurs in military service), or sexual harassment and assault that happens outside of the military, and the resulting impact on their mental health. Whilst sexual assault and harassment can happen to both men and women, US military research has found that women report this at far higher levels, experience significant barriers to seeking help and support, and have resulting long-term mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Using data and recruitment from a UK cohort study in its 4th wave of data collection, that has assessed the health and wellbeing of UK Armed Forces who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, this project will use both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews to assess the levels and experiences of UK women service personnel and veterans that report sexual harassment and/or sexual assault.

Study Aims
  • To quantitatively assess the prevalence of MST, sexual harassment and sexual assault experienced in military and non-military settings in UK women service personnel and veterans who served during the Iraq/Afghanistan era deployments.
  • To quantitatively investigate associated mental health and help-seeking outcomes of women who have experienced sexual harassment/assault and compare with women who have not experienced this.
  • To qualitatively explore women service personnel and veterans’ experiences of sexual harassment/assault, cultures surrounding unacceptable behaviours in service, appropriateness of/and engagement with of support services.
  • To work with military and NHS veteran providers of mental health support to share findings with the aim to improve targeting and tailoring of support to meet women service personnel’s and veterans’ needs.

The PhD student would be joining the KCMHR team, based in the Psychological Medicine department at the IoPPN, KCL. The PhD project would be tied to and supported by the main KCMHR cohort study team leading the work on 4th wave of the cohort data collection which has been running since 2003 (

The student would have development opportunities in ethics applications, for data collection from the main cohort study, and would have access to data from the previous three phases of the cohort study in 2004-2006, 2007-2009 and 2014-2016. The student would have full access to all of King’s research methods and academic skills training, as well as have opportunities to teach as a Graduate Teaching Assistant on the BSc Psychology course or the MSc in War and Psychiatry at the IoPPN who the team has links with.

As a CASE LISS-DTP Studentship – the PhD student would also have a close partnership with the external partner, Combat Stress. This partnership would include PhD supervision and mentoring by Professor Murphy – Head of Research at Combat Stress, 13-week internship with Combat Stress to experience work on a research paper utilising Combat Stress client health data, shadowing of research therapist at Combat Stress, and facilitated links to Cobseo, UK Psychological Trauma Society and European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

As a CASE LISS-DTP Studentship the PhD student would also have access to additional training and funding opportunities – for more information see here


A supervisory team would be comprised of three supervisors: Professor Nicola Fear, Dr Marie-Louise Sharp and Professor Dominic Murphy

Entry requirements

Standard PhD entry requirements:Applicants should have a Bachelor’s degree with 2:1 honours (or Overseas equivalent). A 2:2 degree may be considered only where applicants also offer a Master’s with Merit.

Students should have/expect to have a Master’s Degree that meets LISS-DTP/ESRC core training requirements. We welcome applicants from a wide range of disciplines including epidemiology, psychology, psychiatric research and social sciences – please see approved Master’s courses here

LISS-DTP/ESRC entry requirements: Candidates must have covered at least three of the four major ESRC core research methods areas - social theory, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and research design – in level 7 (Master’s) modules. In some cases, we can consider professional experience, but this is in conjunction with a master’s degree rather than a substitute. You can see more details regarding these ESRC’s core research training areas on the following link

Desirable Criteria:
  • Working knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative research methods – for example, epidemiology, statistics, qualitative interviews, focus groups.
  • Good writing skills, ability to produce clear and concise reports
  • Experience of recruiting participants and data collection
  • Knowledge of research ethics processes and concepts
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good presentation skills
  • Good organisation skills
  • Experience using Stata, NVivo or other research software
  • Experience of working with individuals who have experienced trauma
  • Interest in health/wellbeing of the Armed Forces community
Person Criteria:
  • Proactive and able to use initiative
  • A team player
  • Flexible approach to work
  • Interest in developing an academic/research career


Award types and eligibility

The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Please note both UK home students and international students are eligible for this studentship, however LISS DTP will only award up to 3 International CASE Studentship Awards (30% of LISS-DTP total CASE Studentships for 2022 Entry).

The award pays maintenance for all students. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2021/22 is £15,609, plus a London Weighting of £2000/year (figure amounts for 2022/23 will be updated when possible). Some research and travel costs will be covered separately by LISS-DTP funding opportunities.

The project is to be undertaken on a full-time basis

We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area. We also welcome applications from ex-service personnel or individuals with knowledge and understanding of Armed Forces health and service life.

Students will be expected to be based at KCMHR on the King’s College London Denmark Hill campus, with occasional time at Combat Stress Head Office in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Further information

KCMHR website:

Combat Stress website:

About the IoPPN:

Research degrees at the IoPPN:

LISS-DTP website:

How to apply

Applicants must complete and submit an online admissions application, via the admissions portal by midnight (23:59 GMT), Sunday 6th March 2022. 

On the ‘Choosing a programme’ page, please select Psychological Medicine Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time).

In your application, you will be asked to include:

      • A personal statement (max. two pages) Please include this as an attachment rather than using the text box. It should outline:
  1. Why you are interested in the studentship
  2. How you meet the entry requirements (both standard PhD and LISS-DTP core training requirements)
  3. How you meet any of the desired/person criteria
  4. Any other relevant skills/experience
  5. Any ideas or proposals you have for developing/executing the specified project

In the Funding section, please tick box 5 and include the following reference: MLS-KCMHR-LISSDTPMST-22

You are welcome to email for more information regarding the project and studentship.

If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact the Education support team at 

Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Please note: The studentship start date is October 2022. The successful candidate will be asked to submit a project approval form (with support from supervisors) to the IoPPN for a 1st June 2022 deadline to meet the studentship start date.

Closing date

Midnight (23:59 GMT), Sunday 6th March 2022


Virtually via MS Teams 25th, 28th, 29th March 2022


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