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Research Questions

  1. What percentage of active- and reserve-component Coast Guard service members experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination in the past year?
  2. What are the perceived and actual consequences of sexual assault and sexual harassment for workplace cohesion, productivity, retention intention, and other outcomes?
  3. How do Coast Guard rates of sexual offenses and their characteristics compare with comparable figures from DoD military services?
  4. Can differences in rates between the DoD services and the Coast Guard be explained by differences in the demographic makeup of their members?

In early 2014, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office asked the RAND National Defense Research Institute to conduct an independent assessment of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the military — an assessment last conducted in 2012 by DoD using the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members. The Coast Guard also requested inclusion of its members. The resulting RAND Military Workplace Study included a survey of 560,000 U.S. service members fielded in August and September of 2014. About 14,000 active-component Coast Guard members and all 7,592 Coast Guard Reserve members were among those invited to participate in the survey. This volume presents results from this survey for the U.S. Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Reserve. It includes estimates of the number of Coast Guard members who experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination in the past year, as well as detailed information about the characteristics of those incidents, decisions to report, and experiences with response and legal systems. It also describes Coast Guard members' beliefs and attitudes about these problems.

Key Findings

An estimated 180 to 390 of the U.S. Coast Guard's 39,000 active-component members experienced one or more sexual assaults in the past year

  • This figure includes assaults by other service members, civilians, spouses, or others.
  • It represents 3.0 percent of active-component women and 0.3 percent of active-component men.
  • The prevalence of sexual assault is significantly lower for men and women in the Coast Guard compared to the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, even after controlling for demographic and other differences, but similar to that of the Air Force.
  • Among women who were sexually assaulted in the past year, the assailant was another member of the military in 77 percent of all cases.

Far more Coast Guard members experienced sexual harassment in the past year than experienced sexual assault

  • Approximately 6 percent of active-component Coast Guard members, or 2,350 members, experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past year.
  • A higher proportion of women (roughly 1 in 5) than men (1 in 25) had workplace experiences in the past year that, under Coast Guard directives, would be classified as sexual harassment.
  • 90 percent of active-component Coast Guard members who experienced sexual harassment or gender discrimination described the perpetrator(s) as members of the military.

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are strongly associated with sexual assault

  • 30 percent of Coast Guard women who were sexually assaulted indicated that their assailant had sexually harassed them prior to the assault.


  • Concentrate additional prevention and enforcement efforts on sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Reducing the incidence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination is likely to have far-reaching benefits for the Coast Guard and may reduce the prevalence of sexual assault.
  • Review training and instructional materials to ensure that they make clear that some reportable sexual assaults may occur in the context of hazing or bullying, or may not be perceived as a sexual encounter. Ensuring that members of the Coast Guard understand the full scope of physical assaults that qualify as sexual assaults may improve reporting and provide those who are being abused with needed response systems.
  • Develop monitoring systems for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, hazing, bullying, and physical assaults. We believe it might be valuable to extend monitoring to cover not only military equal opportunity violations, but also hazing, bullying, and physical assaults, all of which form a nexus that may contribute to sexual assault risk and undermine good order and discipline in the Coast Guard.
  • Further investigate the causes and consequences of sexual assault. Topics for further investigation include: (1) Identify the reasons for the substantial differences in risk of sexual assault between Coast Guard members and members of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. And (2) undertake a longitudinal study of service members' responses to sexual harassment and discrimination to help the Coast Guard better understand the consequences of sexual harassment and gender discrimination on service members' careers, safety, and retention in the Coast Guard.

This research was conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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