Study Estimates Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Risk Across Army Installations, Units, and Occupational Specialties

By Army Resilience DirectorateJune 18, 2021

WASHINGTON — A new report on the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment across the Army will help leaders better implement tailored prevention programs for Soldiers serving in specific units and job functions, Army officials said today.

The report, commissioned by the Army in 2017, was compiled by RAND from DoD data gathered from surveys of Army Soldiers from 2014 to 2018 and provides leaders with more information to understand how installations, units and even military occupational specialties impact the risk a Soldier faces from sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The findings are vital for the Army to determine where and how to more precisely and most effectively provide training, prevention, and response to locations and career fields where they may have the greatest effect – where total risk of sexual assault is high and where large numbers of personnel are stationed.

“The Army is committed to learning as much as possible about individual and organizational factors that contribute to risk of sexual assault and other harmful behaviors,” said Dr. James A. Helis, Director of the Army Resilience Directorate. “This study sheds light on the environmental and occupational factors that contribute to the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment for our Soldiers and, in turn, will help inform future prevention and response efforts.”

“We continually assess the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs and initiatives to determine how to provide the highest quality results for our Soldiers, Army Civilians, and Family members,” he added.

In the past year, the Army has implemented reviews and initiatives that aim to improve sexual violence prevention, response, investigative, and accountability efforts, such as the Fort Hood Independent Review Commission (FHIRC) and the People First Task Force (PFTF). These initiatives aim to create changes that, in addition to the Secretary of Defense 90-Day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC), will cultivate prevention-focused climates of cohesion, dignity, respect, and inclusion, according to Helis.

The Army announced the creation of the PFTF in December 2020 to plan the Army’s implementation of the findings and recommendations from the FHIRC. While the FHIRC report focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings impact matters relevant to the entire Army and its more than 1 million Soldiers. The Army is taking action to implement each of the FHIRC report’s 70 recommendations and is in the process of re-structuring the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and redesigning the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program.

The Army recently implemented measures to better protect and inform victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. A new Army directive improves the issuance of Military Protective Orders for sexual assault victims, clarifies the timeline for updating victims about the status of their cases, and changes the investigative process for sexual harassment complaints to move the investigating officer outside of the brigade-sized unit where the subject of the investigation is assigned.

The Department of Defense Office of People Analytics is slated to field the next WGRA and Reserve components surveys this summer. This information will provide a more current assessment of the Army’s progress in preventing sexual harassment, sexual assault, and associated retaliation.

The RAND report, results of the PFTF and IRC, and the 2021 WGRA data aim to help inform Army prevention and response strategy. The results will also provide commanders with actionable information to tailor local-level initiatives for their units, installations, or missions, according to Helis.

As part of the RAND study, researchers analyzed survey data from the 2016 and 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Personnel, or WGRA, the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study, and administrative and personnel data. The WGRA is the Department of Defense’s official survey to estimate sexual assault prevalence in the military.

The Army is working with RAND Arroyo Center to translate findings from this report into specific installation and unit risk reports, to equip commanders to more effectively combat sexual assault and harassment.

“These unit and Installation sexual assault and harassment risk reports should be ready in July 2021,” said Dr. Jenna Newman, social science advisor at ARD and the Army’s project lead for the study.

“The Army is also further engaging with RAND to conduct follow-on projects that will provide additional actionable information about risk of sexual harm and gender discrimination across the Army, including the characteristics of these enduring issues and further details around where risk is highest and lowest across the Army, and why,” she said.