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Pentagon Sexual Assault Survey Draws Complaints Over Graphic Questions

Pentagon Sexual Assault Survey Draws Complaints Over Graphic Questions

November 4, 2014 — Some military service members are complaining that this year's version of a biennial sexual assault survey is too graphic, the AP/Stars and Stripes reports.

Survey Details

The current survey, developed by Rand and distributed to about 560,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members, is more detailed than in past years and includes personal questions about sexual acts, according to the AP/Stars and Stripes.

The survey asks respondents about any undesired sexual advances or contact and includes questions that specifically address men's and women's body parts, objects, and types of penetration and contact.

Service Members Raise Concern

Some service members in an interview with the AP said they were distressed and shocked by the questions. Further, some survivors of sexual assault reported feeling re-victimized by the questions' blunt wording.

Pentagon officials confirmed the complaints, saying that service members had expressed concern that the questions are "invasive" and "intrusive."

Jill Loftus, who heads the Navy's sexual assault prevention program, said, "We've had a number of complaints," adding, "I've heard second- and third-hand that there are a number of women, officers and enlisted, who have gotten to the point where they've read the questions and they've stopped taking the survey. They found them to be either offensive or too intrusive."

DOD, Rand Explain Questions

The Department of Defense said the survey was constructed to be more explicit this year to help the military obtain a clearer picture of the problem as it tries to address the issue and encourage more survivors to come forward.

Nate Galbreath, senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention department, said that sexual assault "is a crime of a very graphic nature" and that for the military "to improve [its] understanding, it sometimes requires asking tough questions."

He continued, "Research has told us, if I ask someone, 'Have you ever been raped?' they will say, 'No,'" adding, "If I ask that same person, 'Have you ever been forced to engage in sexual activity against your will?' they might say 'Yes.' It's because of the loaded terms like rape and sexual assault, that it's not very clear to a lot of people what we may be asking about."

Kristie Gore, a project leader at Rand, said service members were told they could skip questions or decline to take the survey and that Rand has "received a relatively small number of complaints" (Baldor, AP/Stars and Stripes, 10/31).