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Study reveals reluctance to report military sexual assault

Researchers from the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the University of Iowa conducted telephone interviews with 1,339 service women and women Veterans in 2010 and 2011. Of these, 205 said they had experienced sexual assault while in service—and only 25 percent of those reported that they had been assaulted, even though 65 percent of them knew how to do so.

The Department of Defense (DoD) uses routine surveys of active-duty service members and reservists to determine the prevalence of sexual assault in the military. DoD also uses evidence-based practices to help them prepare and update their strategies to prevent sexual assault.

To encourage service members to report instances of assault, DoD offers two ways to report those instances: restricted reporting, in which neither law enforcement officers nor the command structure is involved; and unrestricted, in which law enforcement and the command structure are notified and a criminal investigation is initiated.

The researchers found that while restricted reporting was rated more positively by those surveyed, unrestricted reporting was more often used; that officers were less likely to report assault than enlisted service women; and that barriers to reporting include concerns about lack of confidentiality, adverse treatment by peers, and the belief that nothing would be done. (American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2014)

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