Study Finds 2 in 5 Military Women Experience Sexual Trauma

Military members in camouflage uniforms lined upAccording to a new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs, as many as 2 in 5 women in the military report experiencing sexual harassment or assault. Nationwide, about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report being raped at some point in their lifetime, suggesting a much higher rate of sexual assault among military members.

Sexual Abuse in the Military

To explore the prevalence of sexual assault in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked 60,000 veterans who served during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to complete surveys on unwanted sexual behavior during their time in the military. About a third—20,563—responded. Four percent of men and 41% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment during their service. Less than 1% of men and 9% of women said they had been sexually assaulted.

Veterans who saw combat during their deployments were more likely to face sexual harassment or assault, but deployed men had a lower overall risk of sexual trauma. For women, deployment status made no difference. Navy and Marine veterans were more likely to experience sexual trauma than Air Force veterans.

Though proportionately fewer men than women experienced sexual trauma, there are significantly more men than women in the military. In 2011, women made up 14.5% of active-duty military members.

The Consequences of Reporting Abuse

Critics claim that the military has not done enough to prevent sexual violence, pointing to a culture of sexism that punishes victims for coming forward. The Department of Defense is required to study the military’s response to rape, sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual assault. The most recent report, containing data for 2014, suggests that women who come forward with claims of sexual violence were often penalized for doing so.

About two-thirds of women who reported sexual violence said they had faced some form of professional retaliation, such as being denied a promotion. The majority of these reprisals came from the same superiors who were charged with investigating the crime, according to the survey. An additional 26% report being ostracized by other soldiers for reporting sexual violence.

The military is working to reverse this trend. In three quarters of cases, the military took disciplinary action against perpetrators. Victims of sexual violence in the military can seek help directly by calling the military’s anonymous hotline at 877-995-5247.


  1. 2 in 5 military women endure sexual trauma during service. (2015, August 27). Retrieved from
  2. By the numbers: Women in the U.S. military. (2013, January 24). Retrieved from
  3. Department of Defense annual report on sexual assault in the military [PDF]. (2014). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Defense.
  4. Rosen, J. (2015, May 1). Female service members say they face retribution for reporting sexual assaults. Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Jacqui

    August 31st, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    No matter what there are always going to be those sectors that are zoned as typically Men Only and women are going to be walked over when we try to tread on that territory.personally though I am shocked that we still have these kinds of numbers coming out about rape and sexual harassment because the talk is always about far we have come and not it still seems like look, we still have so far to go.

  • Claudette

    September 2nd, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Until there are more women allowed to have and achieve leadership roles within the military I am afraid that this will remain a very common problem.

  • Mallory

    September 4th, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    I am thinking that this is totally unacceptable. Who would even want their daughter going into the military with stats like this?

  • ronnie

    September 5th, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    Obviously women in the military are getting stronger and stronger all of the time. There were just a few weeks ago the two women who have now achieved Army Ranger status. That is a step in the right direction. I do think that it is going to take more time but i see it as the women who are enlisted are better able to have the same rank and responsibility as the men who are do, then they will all be more on equal terms and hopefully these numbers will begin to go away.

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