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Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are significant issues in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment are also significant issues in the military. According to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2021:

  • There were 8,866 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or the subjects of criminal investigations in fiscal year 2021; 7,249 of these reports were made by service members.
  • Approximately 614 of the reports were for incidents that occurred before the service member entered into military service.
  • 1,732 formal complaints of sexual harassment were received, processed, and investigated by the military services and the National Guard Bureau in fiscal year 2021.

According to the 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members Overview Report, an anonymously completed survey conducted every two years, 6.2 percent of DOD women (an estimated 12,927 service members) and 0.7 percent of DOD men (an estimated 7,546 service members) experienced a sexual assault in the past 12 months. The same report for reservists from 2019 reported that 3.1 percent of reserve component women (an estimated 4,819 service members) and 0.3 percent of men (an estimated 1,748 service members) experienced a sexual assault in the past 12 months.

There are key differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment

Sexual Assault: Always involves physical contact

The psychological, physical and occupational consequences of sexual trauma are complex and individualized but can include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Substance use/misuse
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Physical health symptoms
  • Impaired work performance

Self-care and healthy coping strategies are essential to recovering from the trauma of a sexual assault. There is no one way in which to cope, and healing may come in a variety of forms. Some tips to get started are:

  • Reach out to friends, family members or a professional
  • Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Meditate, try yoga or take a dance class
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Journal
  • Read
  • Create art
  • Listen to music
  • Turn off the news
  • Go on a hike, a run, or a walk
  • Get involved in efforts to support other survivors or raise awareness about sexual violence
  • Keep crisis hotlines handy in case of an emergency and know the DOD Safe Helpline is available 24/7 to support members of the DOD community affected by sexual assault

Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) seal

The DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) serves as the single point of authority for program accountability and oversight to enable military readiness and reduce, with a goal to eliminate, sexual assault from the military. The SAPRO website contains helpful information related to sexual assault including fact sheets on:

DOD has multiple ongoing efforts to address sexual assault and supports needed for victims and those accused of sexual assault, including collaborative work groups to examine treatment gaps, support best practices and provide recommendations to improve the health care response, and take action regarding male sexual assault, as well as ongoing research studies.

PHCoE serves as a resource on sexual assault and sexual harassment for both service members and Military Health System providers, offering material on:

Last Updated: September 21, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

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