The RAND Military Workplace Study — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is the purpose of the survey (survey objectives)?

    The survey is a critical part of understanding military workplace relations. The objectives of the 2014 survey were:

    • Establish precise, independent and objective estimates of the percentage of service members who have experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination
    • Describe the characteristics of these incidents, such as where and when they occurred, who harassed or assaulted the member, whether the event was reported, and what services the member sought
    • Identify barriers to reporting these incidents and barriers to the receipt of support and legal services.
  • Where can we find a copy of the survey questions?

    The survey questions are included in the methods report (Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in the Military: The 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study Vol. 1 Study Design) located on the RAND.org website.

  • How does this study differ from previous studies?

    Compared with past surveys that were designed to measure a climate of sexual misconduct associated with illegal behavior, RAND’s approach offers greater precision in estimating the number of service members who experienced crimes and sex-based Military Equal Opportunity violations (sexual harassment and gender discrimination) that occurred in the past year. The RMWS survey tool used the definitions and criteria of sexual assault crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the survey used criteria drawn from DoD Directive 1350.2 to determine sex-based military equal opportunity (MEO) violations.

  • Why was the survey redesigned?

    The RMWS survey offers more precise information relative to the number of service members who experienced criminal assaults and sex-based MEO violations. Having precise and interpretable data will facilitate efforts within the DoD and Congress to address these problems. The 2012 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty (WGRA) report estimated 26,000 active duty members experienced a past year “unwanted sexual contact,” however, since unwanted sexual contact did not necessarily entail a crime, it was unclear to many how to interpret the practical significance of the finding. The RMWS is designed to clarify the number of service members experiencing actual sex crimes and MEO violations.

  • Can the new results be compared with previous years’?

    Recognizing that DoD is interested in changes in the rate of unwanted sexual contacts and sexual harassment over time, RAND gave some participants the same questions that had been given in earlier DoD surveys. This allows RAND to compare the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact and sexual harassment in 2014 to the prevalences measured in 2012, 2010 or and 2006.

  • How was the sample size determined?

    A large sample was required to fulfill the multiple objectives of the study, including administering both the new RAND survey and the prior WGRA version to sufficient numbers of service members to calculate reliable estimates of sexual assault and harassment for each service, by gender, and by pay grade categories. In addition to allowing for more precise estimates, the large sample is valuable for understanding the experiences of those respondents who experienced a sexual assault, and also allows RAND to test how changing the survey questionnaire itself might affect results.

  • Why are results presented as weighted estimates?

    Most professional surveys require weights in order to make the sample representative of the population the survey is designed to describe. For instance, by design our respondents are almost half women, even though the active duty forces are only about 15% women. If we took a simple average result without using weights to adjust the sample to match the true proportions of men and women, that simple average would skew the findings toward women’s experiences and responses. Weights ensure that the results are based on analytic samples that look like the population.

  • How did RAND develop its questions?

    A team of experienced RAND researchers was supplemented by a scientific advisory board consisting of renowned experts on sexual assault, civilian and military law, the assessment of sexual assault and sexual harassment, victim services, survey methodology, and military sociology. In addition, RAND researchers consulted with many other substance-area experts, advocacy groups, and service members (including many who had experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment), to ensure that each survey question assessed the legal construct it was designed to measure as accurately as possible and to ensure that respondents could understand the meaning of each question. RAND tested the survey with active-duty and reserve component members before fielding the survey, and found that the language in the survey was acceptable to most survey respondents, including victims of sexual assault. Additionally, the survey was extensively reviewed within DoD as part of the development process, including reviews by each Service, the Office of the General Counsel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the OSD Chief Privacy Officer, the DMDC survey protocol review, the OSD Research Regulatory Oversight Office, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and experts from each Service’s SAPR offices, among many others. Finally, the project received independent research ethical reviews by RAND and OSD.

  • Does the new survey only ask about past year sexual assaults and harassment, or could service members also indicate earlier such experiences?

    The new RAND form asked about not just past year sexual assaults, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, but also about such experiences that occurred more than a year ago, either before or after entering the service. However, the figures in the top-line results released in Dec. 2014 include only events that respondents indicated occurred in the past year. The full results will be reported in the spring.

  • What is the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment?

    Sexual assault as defined in our study is one of several crimes defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 120. Sex-based MEO violations are defined in DoDD 1350.2, and include gender discrimination and sexual harassment, the latter of which includes a sexually hostile work environment and offers of sexual quid pro quo. While these are often not criminal acts, they constitute unfair or abusive treatment of service members based on their gender.

  • Why did RAND ask respondents about the “intent” of the unwanted sexual contact?

    RAND sought to pattern its survey questions on criteria in military law defining sexual assaults (Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; UCMJ). A key criterion in this law for all assaults other than rape is that the unwanted contact must not have occurred accidentally or for some legitimate purpose, but instead must either have been for a sexual purpose or to abuse, degrade, harass or humiliate the victim.

  • Do intent questions set a high bar for identifying sexual assaults that could have the effect of undercounting events that were, in fact, sexual assaults?

    No. The purpose of the intent questions is merely to exclude events that were unwanted, but were, for instance, accidental contacts or contacts that were legitimate. Many definitions of sexual assaults include judgments about the purpose of the contact. It is the victim’s interpretation of that purpose that determines whether they experience it as a violation or sexual assault. There are many legitimate reasons why someone may touch a service member in a private area of their body that should not be counted as sexual assault. Unwanted contact with private areas can occur with some frequency during combat training, working in close quarters, uniform adjustments, required medical exams, and the like. Although these contacts may be unwanted – and may occur without consent – they are not sexual assaults in either military or civilian jurisdictions if they are accidental or served a legitimate purpose. Whether the recipient of the touching experiences it as accidental or legitimate on one hand, or abusive or sexual on the other is an important factor in determining whether a crime occurred.

  • Why do the sexual harassment items require that the experience bother the person? Aren’t these actions inappropriate and wrong in the workplace even if the person wasn’t offended?

    Service members live, work and socialize together. It is normal, and even desirable, that service members have close friends in the military with whom they share personal experiences, opinions, or jokes. However, DoD regulations – and federal civil rights laws – prohibit behavior when it interferes with the rights of other service members to fair treatment in the military. For this reason, the survey does not assess all sexual talk or behavior in the military, but only the portion that made the respondent uncomfortable, angry, or upset. If these sex-based behaviors are persistent or severe they represent a violation of military regulations or federal civil rights. We plan to describe the number of people who experience workplace behaviors that they found to be upsetting and that fit the general categories of gender discrimination, hostile sexual workplace environment, and sexual quid pro quo.

  • What is a penetrative assault?

    Article 120 of the UCMJ defines “rape” and “sexual assault” as involving penetration, however, slight, of the vulva, anus or mouth by a penis, any other part of the body, or by an object. Unwanted contacts that involve these types of penetrations and that meet the other Article 120 criteria for a criminal offense are counted as penetrative sexual assaults in this study.

  • Does the RMWS account for where these events took place (on or off military installations, etc.)

    While the RMWS did ask these types of questions, the results have not yet been analyzed. We will report the results on this and other questions in spring 2015.

  • What are RAND’s recommendations to address and prevent these issues in the military?

    This study is intended to estimate the rate of sexual assault and harassment of service members over the past year, as well as to describe the nature of those incidents. It does not evaluate specific military policies or programs or offer specific recommendations for prevention. However, DoD leaders and Members of Congress need data that accurately depicts the nature and extent of sexual assault, sexual harassment and gender discrimination so that they can identify actions or policies that will reduce these problems and help the victims of these incidents.