January 3, 2013 — Almost half of deployed servicewomen have been sexually harassed, and nearly one in four have been sexually assaulted, according to a new study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, USA Today reports.
The study is based on results from an anonymous survey sent to more than 1,100 women who had served in or near Iraq or Afghanistan (Zoroya, USA Today, 12/26/12). The study found that 48.6% of respondents said they were sexually harassed while in a war zone, and 22.8% said they were sexually assaulted (Jeltsen, Huffington Post, 12/27/12).
Almost all of the respondents said the offenders were fellow service members -- often from their own unit -- and 47% said their attackers held a higher rank (USA Today, 12/26/12).
According to the Huffington Post, the conviction rate for sexual assaults in the military is just under 6% (Huffington Post, 12/27/12).
The findings demonstrate that sexual assault, harassment and the related emotional consequences are among the effects of war, even though the "lion's share of the attention" on war's effects "has focused on combat exposure," according to lead researcher Amy Street, a clinical psychologist and deputy director at one of VA's National Centers for PTSD.
"It comes down to the culture," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who has pushed for changes to how the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault cases. She added, "[It] hasn't changed, no matter what the generals or the secretaries of Defense say about zero tolerance. They have not scrubbed the sexism ... out of the military" (USA Today, 12/26/12).