As Congress and the Department of Defense debate how to address the ongoing scourge of sexual assault and harassment in the military, a study on the Army released Friday found that age, experience and where soldiers are based strongly correlate to both offenses.
Women at Fort Hood in particular — where an Army specialist was killed by another soldier last year — have a far higher risk of sexual assault at that base in Texas than the average woman in the Army according to the new study, conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center, a federally funded research group.
Using gender and workplace data, researchers found that the total sexual assault risk to Army women at Fort Hood during 2018 was 8.4 percent, compared with a 5.8 percent risk for all women in the Army.
The researchers also found that for both men and women, younger age was associated with increased risk for sexual assault, as were low education levels and junior rank. Fort Hood and Fort Bliss — another installation in Texas with above-average rates of assault — have large numbers of junior ranking, young soldiers. Further, for both men and women, longer deployments on antiterrorism missions also led to higher risk for sexual assault and harassment.
The new findings suggest that “there are location-specific concerns that require targeted interventions into climate and culture and will require additional research to understand,” Dr. Jenna Newman, a social science adviser at the center and the Army’s project lead for the study, said in a news release.
Sexual harassment is more common than sexual assault in the Army, the authors found, but the risk of sexual harassment is highly correlated with the risk of sexual assault, something other research has also suggested.
A bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, would remove military commanders from a role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault, which she and her supporters in the Senate argue would lead to increased prosecutions and deterrence. At the same time, a panel appointed by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III made a similar recommendation and was expected to release its final findings in the coming weeks.