Sexual assault and sexual harassment are significant issues in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43.6 percent of women and 24.8 percent of men in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
Sexual violence and sexual harassment are also significant issues in the military. According to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2018
- There were 7,623 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or the subjects of criminal investigations in fiscal year 2018; 6,053 of these reports were made by service members.
- 6,676 reports involved service member victims. Approximately 9 percent of the reports were for incidents that occurred before the service member entered into military service.
- 932 formal complaints of sexual harassment were received, processed, and investigated by the military services and the National Guard Bureau 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 in both males and females may result in the following problems:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- 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
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:
- Victim Assistance Overview
- FY18 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military
- DoD Plan to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault of Military Men
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.