Survey: 6 in 10 Military Women Harassed
Thursday September 29, 2005 11:46 PM
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – Six in 10 women who have served in the National Guard and Reserves say they were sexually harassed or assaulted, but less than one-quarter reported it and many who did were encouraged to drop their complaints, a government survey says.
The survey by the Veterans Affairs Department found that nearly half of the women who responded said the incidents occurred while they were on duty.
One in 10 said she was raped, nearly 60 percent said they were verbally harassed, and the rest of the reports were for other types of incidents, according to the survey, which was released by Democratic members of Congress.
In addition, more than 27 percent of male Guard and Reserve veterans said they experienced some type of sexual harassment or assault – most often by other men.
“I am releasing the report, which I have obtained through other sources, to shine a light on a serious problems that the White House wants to hide in the shadows,” said Rep. Lane Evans of Illinois, the top Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Defense Department spokesman Roger Kaplan said the survey “tells us that we were correct in placing greater emphasis on combating sexual assault and sexual harassment in the active and reserve components.”
He said more recent surveys show lower rates of harassment and sexual assaults in the military.
Interviewed between August 2002 and March 2003 were men and women who had completed their service. No one in the Guard or Reserves at the time of the research was questioned.
The study surveyed those in the Guard and Reserves from 1950 to 2000; most of the 4,000 respondents served in the 1980s and 1990s.
The survey echoes oft-repeated concerns about sexual harassment and assault in the military. In a report last year, the Pentagon acknowledged problems in preventing, treating and investigating sexual assaults on military personnel.
As a result, the Defense Department instituted broad new policies this year, requiring additional training and providing for confidential reporting of assaults and harassment by victims.
“We really are hammering into everybody that unless the answer is yes, the default setting for having sexual relations is no,” Kaplan said.
The report noted that 78 percent of the women and 90 percent of the men did not report the incidents, and half or less of those who did said some action was taken to correct the situation. About 58 percent of the men who reported the incident and 66 percent of the women said they were encouraged to drop the matter.
Also, less than 14 percent of the men and 28 percent of the women sought help or treatment, and only about 1 percent went to the VA for that help.
VA officials did not release the study, saying it was still in the final stages of review.
Department spokesman Scott Hogenson, explaining the nearly two-year delay in releasing the study, said officials were checking the facts.
He said the agency has $13 million for counseling services for sexual trauma victims in the budget that starts Saturday.
“We do everything we can to encourage veterans to seek the treatment they need,” he said.