Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment in the Military

DoD Safe Helpline - Sexual Assault Support for the DoD Community Call the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 In immediate danger? Call 911 inside the U.S.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are significant issues in the military. According to Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2019.

  • There were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or the subjects of criminal investigations in fiscal year 2019; 6,236 of these reports were made by service members.
  • 6,888 reports involved service member victims in fiscal year 2019. 652 of the reports were for incidents that occurred before the service member entered into military service.
  • 1,021 formal complaints of sexual harassment were received by the military services in fiscal year 2019, a 10 percent increase from complaints filed in fiscal year 2018.

According to the 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members Overview Report , an anonymously completed survey conducted every two years, 6.2 percent of DoD women (an estimated 12,927 service members) and 0.7 percent of DoD men (an estimated 7,546 service members) experienced a sexual assault in the past 12 months.

There are key differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment

Sexual Assault: Always involves physical contact; Behavior may or may not occur in the work environment of involve co-workers; SAPRO is the DoD agency responsible for prevention and response; law enforcement is involved in unrestricted reports. Unrestricted reports must always be reported to the Military Criminal Investigation Office. Sexual Harassment: Often involves nonphysical contact, but may include physical contact; Behavior is linked directly to co-workers or others in the work environment; Military Equal Opportunity/Equal Employment Opportunity (MEO/EEO) is the DoD agency responsible for prevention and response; law enforcement is typically not involved. Investigations are usually through command directed investigation procedures.

Sexual assault in both males and females may result in the following problems:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and social phobias
  • Alcohol or other substance use disorder
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Self-harm behavior

Healthy coping strategies are essential to recovering from the trauma of a sexual assault:

  • Maintain a sleep schedule that provides a sufficient amount of sleep
  • Keep crisis hotlines and resource information handy in case of an emergency
  • Reach out to friends, family and/or fellow service members to express feelings and receive support
  • Refrain from alcohol use, especially if used to calm nerves, relax or try to forget about the incident
  • Engage in aerobic exercise and enjoyable activities or hobbies to help reduce upsetting symptoms
  • Seek care from a professional if psychological health symptoms persist and impact daily life
Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) seal

The DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) serves as the single point of authority for program accountability and oversight to enable military readiness and reduce, with a goal to eliminate, sexual assault from the military. The SAPRO website contains helpful information related to sexual assault including fact sheets on:

DoD has multiple ongoing efforts to address the issue of sexual assault and the supports needed for victims as well as those accused of sexual assault, including collaborative work groups across the services and DoD to examine gaps and provide recommendations to improve the health care response, a work group to take action regarding male sexual assault, and several research studies.

The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) serves as the lead of the Sexual Assault Advisory Group (SAAG) of the Psychological Health and Readiness Council. Established in 2013, this group addresses the issue of sexual assault in the services and in particular, the health care response to sexual assault and sexual harassment. PHCoE is the sexual assault expert point of contact for the Defense Health Agency National Capital Region.