Sexual assault remains a problem in the U.S. military, with more than 20,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact occurring in 2014, according to a survey released today by the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica-based think tank.
About 170,000 troops participated in the Rand Military Workplace Study, which found that 65 percent of incidents took place on a military installation or ship.
Also, 81 percent of men and 89 percent of women said the perpetrator was another person in the military, and 54 percent of those who said they were assaulted by someone in the military said the perpetrator was someone of a higher rank.
“Our study has provided new insights into gender differences in sexual assault and on the risk and consequences of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” said Andrew Morral, a senior behavioral scientist at Rand. “These findings should facilitate new, more-targeted strategies for combating these problems in military and non-military settings, as well.”
The Rand researchers determined key differences in the experiences of men and women in the military.
Men who were sexually assaulted were more likely than women to have experienced multiple incidents in the past year, to have been assaulted by multiple offenders during a single incident, and to have been assaulted at work or during duty hours, according to the think tank.
Men also were more likely to describe an event as “hazing” or as an incident intended to abuse or humiliate them, according to the study, which also found that sexual assaults of men were less likely to involve alcohol than assaults of women.
Finally, men who experienced a sexual assault were less likely to file a report with authorities or tell anyone about the incident, according to Rand.
Rand said the results confirm researchers’ initial finding that the risk of sexual assault varies substantially by branch of service. Men and women in the Air Force experienced substantially lower rates of sexual assault than those in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, the researchers said.
While the survey included active and reserve component members of the Coast Guard, results from that portion of the study will be published later.
The study found that sexual harassment is a common experience, especially among women.
An estimated 116,600 U.S. active component service members were sexually harassed in the past year, with women experiencing significantly higher rates than men, the survey showed.
In nearly 60 percent of those cases, a supervisor or unit leader was reported as committing the violations. In addition, 43,900 active service members reported experiencing gender discrimination in the past year.
“While there’s a great deal of work that needs to be done to understand how best to address these challenging problems, Rand’s role was to provide the clarity that could drive change,” said Kristie Gore, co-leader of the project and a senior behavioral scientist at Rand.