Deployed women who underwent “combat-like” experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are much more likely to report sexual harassment and sexual assault compared with other deployed women, according to a new study.
Published in the August edition of Women’s Health Issues journal, the study used data from more than 13,000 military women who have been tracked in the Millennium Cohort Study, which began in 2001. Participants filled out an extensive “baseline” questionnaire and repeat the Defense Department research survey at three-year intervals.
Sexual assault of women in the military has become a major focus for the Pentagon and the service branches. Victims have called on the Defense Department and Congress to take effective steps to curb assaults and prosecute perpetrators.
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Women account for about 200,000 of the military’s 1.4 million active-duty personnel, according to Pentagon figures. More than 280,000 women have deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the 9/11 attacks, and women will likely see more combat after the Defense Department rescinded a rule barring them from combat positions earlier this year. The DOD plans to integrate them into those jobs by 2016.
The journal study is the first to use such a broad-based group of female servicemembers — including reserve and National Guard personnel — to analyze the association between “sexual stressors” and deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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