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Sexual Harassment of Women in the Military


Sexual harassment of women in the military is common. A 2007 U.S. Department of Defense survey found that 34 percent of active-duty women in the military report being sexually harassed. By definition, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is related to your job or work environment. Harassers (perpetrators) can be male or female. The perpetrator can be a supervisor, coworker, or a third party.

The impact of military-based sexual harassment

For soldiers, sexual harassment can have a uniquely traumatizing affect. Military therapists report soldiers who endured sexual harassment suffer high rates of a range of problems once they are discharged, including poor self-image, relationship problems, drug use, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem is known as military sexual trauma.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the military

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, begin by stating clearly to the perpetrator that his or her behavior is unwelcome and needs to stop. If the behavior continues, you have several options:

  • Report the harassment to your direct supervisor or higher up the chain of command. The military's restricted reporting rule permits this.

  • Write and deliver a memo to the harasser documenting the incident and repeating the fact that you want the behavior to stop.

  • You may also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and enlist its help in stopping the behavior.

  • If you fear for your safety, you may want to remain silent and determine if you can leave the military.

If you need help and want to take action

No matter what actions you take, if you suffer lasting trauma from enduring sexual harassment while in the military, you may be entitled to help and treatment from your military branch or the Veterans Administration. The military may also help you take action against the perpetrator. This might include a military trial or administrative separation action for the perpetrator, with a possible negative affect on the perpetrator's military career. Get an attorney specializing in military cases to help you build and present your case.

Additional resources:

The Miles Foundation: Guides for Victims, Survivors and Advocates

U.S. Department of Defense: Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies

U.S. Navy: Prevention of Sexual Harassment & What Constitutes Sexual Harassment

Related Legal Guides:

Sexual Assault in the Military

Workplace Harassment

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