Factors associated with women's risk of rape in the military environment

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Mar;43(3):262-73. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10202.


Background: Health hazards specific to women workers have not been adequately documented. This study assessed military environmental factors associated with rape occurring during military service, while controlling for pre-military trauma experiences.

Methods: A national cross-sectional survey of 558 women veterans serving in Vietnam or in subsequent eras was obtained through structured telephone interviews.

Results: Rape was reported by 30% (n = 151) of participants, with consistent rates found across eras [corrected]. Military environmental factors were associated with increased likelihood of rape, including: sexual harassment allowed by officers (P < 0.0001), unwanted sexual advances on-duty (P < 0.0001) and in sleeping quarters (P < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Violence towards military women has identifiable risk factors. Work and living environments where unwanted sexual behaviors occurred were associated with increased odds of rape. Officer leadership played an important role in the military environment and safety of women. Assailant alcohol and/or drug abuse at time of rape was notable. Interventions and policies based on modifiable environmental risk factors are needed to increase protection for women in the workplace.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Rape / prevention & control
  • Rape / psychology
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Harassment / prevention & control
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*