Cover: Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military

Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military

Volume 5. Estimates for Installation- and Command-Level Risk of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study

Published Sep 21, 2018

by Andrew R. Morral, Terry L. Schell, Matthew Cefalu, Jessica Hwang, Andrew Gelman


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Research Questions

  1. Using data from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study, what is the rate of sexual assault and sexual harassment among personnel serving in individual military installations or commands?
  2. What are the implications of the analyses?
  3. What steps do the findings suggest could be taken to combat sexual assault and harassment against service 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 the rates of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the military — an assessment last conducted in 2012 by the Department of Defense using the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members. The resulting RAND Military Workplace Study invited close to 560,000 U.S. service members to participate in a survey fielded in August and September of 2014. This volume presents survey estimates of how risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment varies across military installations and major commands. The researchers find that risk of sexual assault and harassment varies across installations and commands and that these differences are sometimes large. Patterns in these risk estimates offer important insights into the types of environments where service members are most or least likely to be sexually assaulted or harassed. The results may also provide clues about the conditions that contribute to sexual assault risk and about strategies that could be used to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

Key Findings

The results may offer important insights into the distribution of risk across the services

  • A large proportion of all sexual assaults occur at a relatively few large installations for each of the services. There are some installations where we estimate there were more than 500 sexual assaults of women and men in 2014.
  • Each service member's estimated risk of being sexually assaulted in the one-year period of study depends to a substantial extent on factors associated with his or her duty assignment to a particular unit, command, and installation. Service members' risk of sexual assault can be substantially higher or lower depending on the installations to which they are assigned. Moreover, installation-specific risk is often a large portion of the total risk at an installation or command.
  • Our estimates of sexual assault and sexual harassment risk are highly correlated across installations. These strong associations suggest that sexual assault and sexual harassment have very similar predictors at both the individual and installation levels.


  • This study demonstrates that the method of estimating risk for sexual assault and sexual harassment developed here produces useful information about the distribution of risk.
  • These risk estimates should be disseminated to military leaders to make them more aware of problems in their commands and to identify progress on command objectives.
  • The concentration of large numbers of sexual assault victims at a relatively small number of installations suggests that specialized training, prevention, and response interventions may be efficiently deployed to those locations.
  • The services should investigate the conditions leading to patterns of sexual assault risk.
  • Estimates of total and duty-specific risk can be used to clarify the features of military life, personnel, or organization that are most closely related to risk.
  • When examining installation-level data on sexual assault reporting, the services should compare observed rates of official reporting with installation-level risk.
  • Researchers should evaluate the use of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute's Organizational Climate Survey to identify units and installations where sexual harassment risk is greatest and where high rates of sexual assault are likely.

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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