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Deployment and Sexual Assault in Active Component and Reserve/National Guard Servicewomen

Sadler AG, Mengeling M, Torner J, Barron S, Booth BM. Deployment and Sexual Assault in Active Component and Reserve/National Guard Servicewomen. Poster session presented at: AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting; 2013 Jun 23; Baltimore, MD.


Research Objective: To determine if sexual assault in military (SAIM) rates are different by service (Active Component (AC) vs. Reserve/National Guard (RNG) or by deployment (e.g., deployed vs. never deployed). Study Design: A cross-sectional study design was used. A computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) performed by female interviewers queried socio-demographic, military and assault characteristics, as well as health outcomes of deployment trauma exposures. Population Studied: Defense Manpower Data Center provided us with a sample of OEF/OIF era servicewomen from a 5 state Midwestern region. The cohort included currently serving (79%) and veteran (21%) servicewomen; 50% AC, 50% RNG; and 18% both AC and RNG with three quarters (74%) ever deployed. Principal Findings: SAIM was reported by 18% of the 1337 servicewomen who completed this study. Servicewomen who were enlisted, serving in AC, and who had ever been deployed were most likely to experience SAIM. However, SAIM was more likely to occur when not deployed than when deployed (15% vs 4%) Deployed women had served longer in the military (93 vs 72 months, p < .0001). Variables associated with SAIM occurring during deployment included having experienced sexual assault (SA) prior to military service. Variables associated with SAIM occurring during military service but not during a deployment included: Army service, AC service, enlisted rank, and pre-military SA (all p < .05). Conclusions: SAIM remains a significant public health concern for all military women. Our findings indicate that while servicewomen who had been deployed were more likely to have experienced SAIM, these same servicewomen were most likely to report that the SAIM(s) occurred while not deployed. While this finding initially seems contradictory, there are logical explanations, such as proportionately greater time spent in non-deployed settings. Factors associated with increased likelihood of SAIM in both deployed and non-deployed service can be identified and require further research, e.g. understanding of environmental risks or protective factors associated with branch, rank, and pre-military SA. Implications for Policy, Delivery or Practice: Risk factors and circumstances unique to deployed and non-deployed military environments must be considered by policy makers addressing primary prevention interventions for SAIM. Clinicians must be aware that safety may be an important concern for servicewomen in their care during non-deployed states, e.g. RNG still in service and seeking post-deployment care. Furthermore, practitioners must not assume that sexual assaults are more likely to occur during deployment and carefully query SAIM occurrence, assess concerns for safety and consequent health related consequences.

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