Cover: Assessing the Use of Employment Screening for Sexual Assault Prevention

Assessing the Use of Employment Screening for Sexual Assault Prevention

Published Mar 9, 2017

by Miriam Matthews


Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.9 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.


Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback90 pages $25.00

Research Questions

  1. How might the current policies and procedures that the Air Force uses for vetting the suitability of potential recruits address proclivity to commit sexual assault among these individuals?
  2. How could the Air Force modify current policies and procedures to better identify potential recruits at risk of perpetrating sexual assault?
  3. What is the feasibility of utilizing or adapting various measures, including background checks, integrity tests, and personality assessments, to address proclivity to commit sexual assault among potential recruits?
  4. What are possible strengths, limitations, and risks of adopting additional employment screening measures as a sexual assault prevention strategy?

The Air Force is committed to eliminating sexual assault in the service. It is therefore considering how it may adjust its policies and procedures for screening at enlistment to better address an applicant's potential for sexual assault perpetration. This report reviews the current recruitment and enlistment policies and procedures of the Air Force and assesses how these may address sexual assault perpetration, both a history of it and the propensity to commit it in the future. The report also reviews the strengths and limitations of self-report tests that may be used to predict counterproductive workplace behaviors and considers the applicability of these and other assessments, including background checks and personality-based assessments, to sexual assault prevention. The report concludes with recommendations for the Air Force to consider as part of its efforts to prevent sexual assault in the service.

Key Findings

The Air Force Has Multiple Opportunities to Screen Out Applicants Based on Risk Factors for Sexual Assault

  • At multiple stages in the Air Force application process, questions regarding past behaviors may already screen individuals with a higher proclivity to commit sexual assault.
  • Actions that may assist with screening out those with a higher proclivity to conduct sexual assault include background checks and questions asked to determine whether an applicant has engaged in antisocial behavior.
  • Providing information early in the application process about sexual assault and the Air Force's lack of tolerance for inappropriate relationships and sexual assault can serve as cues to applicants about Air Force norms and culture.

Existing Employment Screening Tools Have Not Aimed to Assess Proclivity to Commit Sexual Assault

  • Although employers have used integrity tests and personality assessments to predict negative workplace behaviors, such as theft, substance use, and absenteeism, these tools have not been used to screen for proclivity to commit sexual assault.
  • Measures have not yet been developed to screen applicants for proclivity to commit sexual assault. Before using measures for this purpose, the Air Force would need to assess test validity among those on whom the tests would be used. Misclassification of individuals and influence of deceptive responses from test-takers would need to be considered during test validation. Development of well-validated measures could assist with selecting from among a pool of potential individuals who are likely to interact with vulnerable subordinates.
  • Employment screening tools can raise privacy concerns or have a disparate impact on protected groups.


  • Provide additional information to applicants regarding the Air Force's intolerance of inappropriate relationships and sexual assault. This information can serve as cues to applicants regarding Air Force norms and culture.
  • Ask applicants questions about their potential history of sexual assault perpetration.
  • Consider whether measures might be better used to choose candidates for a specific position, rather than for entry into the Air Force.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the Director of Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Office of the Vice Chief of Staff, and the commander of Air Force Recruiting Service. It was conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.