University of Iowa Research Examines Nonreporting of Sexual Assault in the Military

iowa_logoA new study conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa examines why there is a low level of reporting of sexual assaults in the U.S. military. A study was conducted on the experiences of more than 1,300 active duty and veteran women. The data showed that 15 percent had been sexually assaulted while serving in the military. But only one quarter of those who had been sexually assaulted reported the crimes to their superiors. About two thirds of the victims said that they were familiar with procedures for reporting sexual assault, but many chose not to do so.

Women in the study said that they did not come forward because they believed that no meaningful action would be taken against the perpetrators. They also said that they feared hostility from their peers and officers if they reported an offense against another member of the military. The women feared that coming forward would negatively impact their careers.

mengelingMichelle Mengeling, associate research scientist in internal medicine in the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine and a co-author of the study, stated that “these findings support the need to address both the process and outcomes of reporting sexual assault in the military. Underreporting these crimes reduces the likelihood that offenders will face legal consequences, which undermines trust within units and jeopardizes the health and safety of all military personnel.”

The study, “Reporting Sexual Assault in the Military: Who Reports and Why Most Servicewomen Don’t,” was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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