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Does mixed-gender housing influence risk of sexual assault in deployed OEF/OIF service women?

Sadler AG, Mengeling M, Torner J, Cook BL, Booth BM. Does mixed-gender housing influence risk of sexual assault in deployed OEF/OIF service women? Paper presented at: American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition; 2015 Nov 2; Chicago, IL.


Background: Although over 20,000 female service-members have been deployed in OEF/OIF, research addressing risk factors for sexual assault (SA) is sparse. Objectives: To determine if OEF/OIF servicewomen report mixed-gender housing during deployment influences service women's risk of sexual assault. Methods: For this mixed methods study, we included a community sample of OEF/OIF servicewomen in the active component (AC) and Reserves/National Guard (RNG) returning from deployment within the preceding 2 years. Fourteen focus groups (N = 75) were performed followed by a computer-assisted telephone interview (N = 775) assessing violence risks/exposures during deployment and health outcomes. Results: Qualitative interviews: servicewomen acknowledged SA occurs in both mixed and gender-segregated housing. Participants were more likely to acknowledge the protective aspects of mixed gender housing, "if you stay close with them (service men) they will look out for you' and indicated that gender-segregated housing is "frustrating and counter-productive", with unintended consequences, e.g. not receiving key information, "it kind of filters through the males but nobody can come down and tell us because they'd get in trouble." They most often reported other risks, e.g. walking to latrines at night. Quantitative findings: SA was reported by 5% of servicewomen during deployment. AC and RNG differences for enlisted and officers will be reported by gender-segregated vs mixed housing during deployment. Conclusion: Gender mixed housing was not perceived by servicewomen to elevate SA risk in deployment. Quantitative findings validated this.

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