Sexual harrassment's prevalence is extremely high among active duty men and women. However, the antecedants and consequences of sexual harrassment in this population are poorly described and often confounded by analytical and study design problems.
1) Describe the feasibility of conducting a longitudinal study of sexual harrassment among active duty men and women that would address previous work's limitations; 2) estimate the sample size of active duty mean and women needed for such a study; and 3) provide preliminary estimates of association between potentially modifiable risk/protective factors, sexual harrassment, and specific adverse psychiatric and functional outcomes.
After initial focus-group work, the following groups were surveyed either directly or through repeated mailings: 204 active duty men and women at a southern Army installation, 701 veterans and active duty men and women receiving care from the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, and 1,972 active duty men and women who received outpatient care from any VA medical facility between January 1, 1998 and June 20, 2002. Of the latter group, 150 men and women also participated in a cohort study designed to assess long-term tracking success.
Effective response rates ranged from 60% to 87%. Almost 92% of respondents queried said they would participate in a longitudinal study. Women reported much higher rates of sexual harrassment (79.8%) and assualt (15.5%) than men (38.4% and 1.3% respectively; p<0.001 for both). Before adjustment, the organizational characteristic most predictive of women's sexual harrassment severity was the command chain's perceived toleration of sexual harrassment (r=0.30, p<0.001). After adjustment, this factor accounted for 12.6% of the variance in women's harrassment on a log scale. Other predictors of sexual harrassment severity for women included being unmarried (p=0.03) and childhood physical abuse (p=0.0001). There was an interaction between race and childhood physical abuse such that sexual harrassment severity was greater among non-blacks with a history of childhood physical abuse than among blacks with the same history (p=0.039). Before adjustment, sexual harrassment severity was significantly associated with greater symtoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and somatization and with porrer overall physical, work, role, and social functioning (all p's <0.0001). After adjustment, sexual harrassment severity remained a statistically significant predictor of PTSD symptoms (p=0.02), but not of the other outcomes. However, power for these latter tests were low. We likewise had insufficient power to identify predictors of men's sexual harrassment severity.
Conducting a long-term cohort study among actice duty men and women is feasible. The command chain's perceived toleration of sexual harrassment appears to be an especially important predictor of sexual harrassment severity among women, and if modified, could potentially substantially reduce military women's sexual harrassment. Risk factors for sexual harrassment among women may vary by race. To understand predictors of men's sexual harrssment, a much larger sample size will be required. Sexual harrassment predicted PTSD symptom severity; to understand its effect on other psychiatric and functional outcomes, larger sample sizes will be needed.
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Military and Environmental Exposures
Technology Development and Assessment, Epidemiology
Deployment Related, Sexual abuse, Women - or gender differences
Combat Disorders, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Sex Offenses