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Research and Future Directions

The current body of sexual assault and sexual harassment research relevant to service members is very limited. There are many gaps within the literature that impact the ability to fully interpret reported DOD prevalence and incidence data, as well as other sexual assault/harassment findings. Whereas there is relatively more research on cisgender women service members, there is still limited information in general on mental health needs and treatment outcomes for service members experiencing sexual assault or harassment and particularly with regard to cisgender male, trans, and non-binary service members. Of note, in response to Independent Review Commission on military sexual assault and harassment recommendations and general lack of information, President Biden issued an executive order that lifted restrictions to data collection on sexual and gender identity within federal institutions. Aspects of military culture may influence barriers to reporting of sexual assault and harassment (and subsequent treatment-seeking behavior for mental health symptoms related to these experiences), but current research is limited.

Future directions for sexual assault/sexual harassment research include:

  • Effects of sexual assault and harassment prevention efforts on incidence rates in the military population
  • Effectiveness of treatments for active duty service members for trauma-related symptoms due to military sexual assault and/or harassment
  • Influence of service member gender specific perceptions of their interactions with military sexual assault and harassment treatment providers on treatment behaviors and outcomes
  • The relationship between the experience of military sexual assault/harassment and development of mental health issues for active duty service members
  • Service members’ knowledge of military sexual assault and harassment services and treatment preferences
  • Needs of service members residing in rural settings who have experienced military sexual trauma and/or harassment
  • Changes to existing military cultural beliefs and behaviors, and the potential impact of those changes on sexual assault and harassment incidence and outcomes
  • Potential barriers and enabling factors related to utilization of sexual assault and harassment-related mental health care
  • Determinants of gender differences in military sexual assault and harassment-related mental health treatment utilization, including gender non-conforming and/or trans service members
Last Updated: March 25, 2024
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