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Similarities and Differences in Perception of Sexual Harassment and Rape by Race among Female Reserve and National Guard Service Women

Cretzmeyer MT, Mengeling M, Booth B, Torner J, Reisinger HS, Sadler AG. Similarities and Differences in Perception of Sexual Harassment and Rape by Race among Female Reserve and National Guard Service Women. Poster session presented at: VA HSR&D Field-Based Equity Conference; 2010 Sep 13; Boston, MA.


Sexual harassment and rape have serious health consequences for veteran populations who report these experiences while in the military. This study used qualitative methods to explore how perceptions of sexual harassment and rape, and reporting ofthese experiences differ by race among female service persons. Methods Eight focus groups were held with groups of OEF/OIF era ReserveINational Guard service women in four Midwestern states (N 39). Groups were stratified by Officer/Enlisted personnel and deployment status (never deployed, deployed to combat one time, deployed to combat more than one time). Twenty nine (64.1 %) of participants were white and fourteen (35.9%) were black. The research team developed a coding dictionary of relevant themes. Transcripts were independently coded by two researchers and entered into NVivo 8.0 for data management and analysis. Agreement between the coders was 80% or better for the majority of themes/codes. Results White participants outnumbered black participants in the focus groups two to one. However, sexual harassment was coded 100 times from white participants and 75 from black. Coding frequency for rape was similar between groups. Dominant themes for white service women when talking about sexual harassment were more interpersonal, that is, referring to rumors and gossip ("God, the rumors were AWFUL! Any time: you talked to somebody, you were sleepin' with him" and "I made the bathroom wall ... Oh yeah. (laughter). Black service women quotes coded to sexual harassment were more organizational in nature, that is, related to rank, gender ratios and reporting mechanisms ("The rank thing not just associated with sexual harassment, becomes a problem when you're trying to do your duties, your job" and "It's like, every time you see the EO rep, and he's like, "How's everything going?" And you're like, uuuhhhhhhh...(laughter) And it's like, you've got issues, and you want to tell 'em, but then again you're scared to say a WORD"). Implications Sexual harassment, rape and rape reporting were perceived differently by white and black Reserve and National Guard service women in ways that affect how these problems can be addressed. Imact Efforts to decrease incidences of sexual harassment and to increase opportunities for reporting may be improved by addressing individual and organizational differences identified by race and thus reduce disparities in access to mechanisms already in place for reporting of sexual harassment and rape, and thereby reduce associated adverse health consequences.

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