Majority of women in US military say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted in service

Level of mistreatment is twice as high as other recent studies have reported

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Thursday 03 January 2019 20:09
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Soldiers, officers and civilian employees attend the commencement ceremony for the US Army's annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Pentagon Center Courtyard in 2015 in Arlington, Virginia
Soldiers, officers and civilian employees attend the commencement ceremony for the US Army's annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Pentagon Center Courtyard in 2015 in Arlington, Virginia

Two thirds of women in the American military polled for a recent survey said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted during their time in service.

In total, 68 per cent of women said they had experienced gender discrimination in the military and 66 per cent said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault.

Some six per cent of men said they had been harassed or assaulted, according to the poll of more than 1,000 service members which was carried out by Smithsonian magazine in conjunction with American military newspaper Stars and Stripes and the Schar School at George Mason University in Virginia.

This was much higher than other recent studies of a similar nature. A study commissioned by the Defence Department found up to 27 per cent of women had experienced sexual assault or harassment while in the military.

The Pentagon does not track instances of sexual harassment, its annual study released in April last year revealed reports of sexual assault in the US military increased by nearly 10 per cent in 2017 .

The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all documented a rise in reported incidents, the study found.

It showed that in 2017, 5,277 service members reported being sexually assaulted during their time in the military compared to 4,794 in 2016.

Campaigners argue the total cited by the Pentagon is likely to be far lower than the actual number of assaults.

Elizabeth P Van Winkle, of the Department of Defence, told reporters at a briefing after the report was released that more service members than ever are “making the courageous decision to report their experiences and to receive restorative care”.

She said: "Over the last decade, the department has made progress. While the progress we’ve seen provides some comfort, we neither take it for granted nor are we under any illusions that our work is done."

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