Raped, beaten and bruised: military institutional abuse, identity wounds and veteran suicide

Ben Wadham, James Connor, Karl Hamner, Sharon Lawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Australian government has recently established a Royal Commission on Defence and Veteran Suicide (DVSRC). Veteran suicide rates for those who have left the Australian Defence Force (ADF) are higher than the national average and there has been little success in reducing this over an extended period of time. Veteran suicide is poorly understood, and the collected data is imprecise and incomplete. Deployment trauma and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD i.e. a mental health lens) are taken for granted as the principal causes. This article presents a case study on institutional abuse in the ADF which led to the veteran attempting suicide on numerous occasions. The article draws upon the mental health and moral injury knowledge but questions their centrality and dominance. Military Institutional Abuse (MIA) and its consequent identity wounds are explained as institutional causes of military trauma. We argue that these institutional abuse processes and their consequences, occurring within military moral geographies, lead to suicidal ideation and attempt. These are situated within wider relations of civil society, the state, and the military.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Military Studies
Early online date11 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2023


  • identity wounds
  • Military institutional abuse
  • moral geographies
  • moral injury
  • PTSD
  • veteran suicide


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