Factors associated with women's risk of rape in the military environment

Background: Health hazards specific to women workers have not been adequately documented. This study assessed military environmental factors associated with rape occurring during military service, while controlling for pre-military trauma experience. Methods: A national cross-sectional survey of 588 women veterans serving in Vietnam or in subsequent eras was obtained through structured telephone interviews. Results: Rape was reported by 28% (n=151) of participants, with consistent rates found across eras. Military environmental factors were associated with increased likelihood of rape, including: sexual harassment allowed by officers (P0.0001), unwanted sexual advances on-duty (P0.0001) and in sleeping quarters (P0.0001). Conclusion: Violence towards military women has identifiavle risk factors. Work and living environments where unwanted sexual behaviors occurred were associated with increased odds of rape. Officer leadership played an important role in the military environment and safety of women. Assailant alcohol and/or drug abuse at time of rape was notable. Interventions and policies based on modifiable environmental risk factors are needed to increase protection for women in the workplace.
Author: 
Sadler,Anne G.
Booth,Brenda M.
Cook,Brian L.
Doebbeling,Bradley N.
Reprint Status: 
IN FILE
Start Page: 
262
End Page: 
273
Journal/Periodical Name: 
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Volume: 
43
Abstract: 
As a male-dominated occupation, the military places female personnel at heightened risk for workplace sexual violence. The purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to distinguish environmental factors related to rape while employed in military service and (b) to depict characteristics of victims and offenders in the workplace. Drawing upon female veterans of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf eras, this study included 558 women (mean age of 40 years) who participated in a national cross-sectional survey involving structured telephone interviews. Developed and piloted using female veterans, the interview measured: (a) characteristics and prevalence of violence; (b) work, living, and leisure environments; (c) officer conduct toward women; and (d) work performance and health-care access. Results found that 79% of female veterans reported sexual harassment, 54% reported unwanted sexual contact, and 30% reported one or more attempted/completed rapes. Of those raped during military service, 37% were raped at least twice and 14% were gang-raped. Characteristics of victims included prior victimization before entering the military, entrance into the military at =19 years of age, discharge at a younger age than nonvictims, and membership in enlisted rank. Victims were also less likely to complete college than were women who had not been raped during their military service. Offenders were characterized as male, non-commissioned officers, and peer of similar rank with previous sexual harassment exhibited by non-commissioned officers and drugs or alcohol being additional predictors of perpetration. Environmental factors associated with rape included sexual harassment permitted by ranking officers, observing sexual activity in sleeping quarters, ranking officers employing quid pro quo behavior, receiving unwanted sexual advances in sleeping quarters, experiencing sexually demeaning comments and behaviors at a duty station, and experiencing unwanted sexual advances on duty. The authors conclude that sexualized living and work environments significantly raise women's risk of rape while appropriate leadership can both determine and improve the military environment for women.
Topic Areas: 
Harassment; military; risk
Reference Type: 
JOUR
Reference ID: 
1981
Publication Date: 
2003