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From Stigma to Support: £300,000 awarded for research into Veteran intimate scarring

The Scar Free Foundation is delighted to announce new funding for research that aims to understand and ease the devastating impact of conflict-related genital and intimate scarring in the Veteran community.

This unique research project is supported by a £300,000 award from the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund, as part of their Transformational Grants programme. We are working closely with our Research Partners, the CASEVAC Club, to ensure the research meets the needs of the people who need it the most.

The aim of the project is to empower wounded Veterans worldwide, both now and in the future, enabling them to forge fulfilling and satisfying romantic and sexual relationships post-injury.

Today, over 130 Veterans have genital or perineal scarring as a result of their Service in Iraq and Afghanistan: another 300 have had traumatic or surgical amputations. But while we provide prosthetics and physiotherapy to these injured Veterans, we avoid discussing the impact such trauma can have on their romantic and sexual lives.

Genital and intimate scarring is shrouded in a veil of taboo, shame, stigma and embarrassment. We know from previous research undertaken by researchers from the University of the West of England as part of our Centre for Conflict Wound Research, that many members of the Armed Forces struggle to reconcile their identity as a “super soldier" with visible difference and disability. Many feel self-conscious about their new appearance, which can make it difficult to form and maintain romantic relationships. And depending on the injury itself, some Veterans can experience a low libido and difficulties with erectile function.

Together, these problems can contribute to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

At present, there are no resources available to help Veterans (or civilians with similar intimate or genital scarring) cope with these sensitive issues. This vital research will fill that gap.

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Veterans returning home with life-changing injuries deserve the utmost in care. Beyond physical wounds, the invisible scars of war significantly impact mental and emotional health.

With the generous support of the AFCFT, we are tackling the neglected issue of conflict-related genital injuries through pioneering, collaborative research. Our goal is to create tailored psychological support tools to meet the unique challenges faced by Veterans with genital scarring.

Together, we are committed to improving the wellbeing of Veterans and supporting their journey towards healing, recovery and fulfilment.

Lt Gen (Rtd) Richard Nugee CB CVO CBE, Chief Executive

Thanks again to the AFCFT for their generous support, as well as to the CASEVAC Club for their invaluable partnership.

For further information and to apply, visit The Genital Injury Project

Photos from Sgt Alison Baskerville, Sgt Jonathan Lee van Zyl and Sgt Will Drummee RAF; Crown Copyright 2024