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Research Question

  1. What percentage of active-duty Coast Guard members experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination in the past year?

In early 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) asked the RAND National Defense Research Institute (NDRI) to conduct an independent assessment of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination in the military — an assessment last conducted in 2012 by the department itself with the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Personnel (WGRA). Separately, the Coast Guard requested that we expand the 2014 study to include an assessment of its active and reserve force. This report provides initial top-line active-duty Coast Guard estimates from the resulting RAND Military Workplace Study, which invited close to 560,000 service members to participate in a survey fielded in August and September of 2014.

The RMWS takes an approach to counting individuals in the military who experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination that measures the incidence of specific crimes and violations. Our measurement of sexual assault aligns closely with the definitions and criteria in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for Article 120 crimes. The survey measures of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, which together we refer to as sex-based military equal opportunity (MEO) violations, use criteria drawn from DoD Directive 1350.2. Compared with past surveys that were designed to measure a climate of sexual misconduct associated with illegal behavior, the approach used in the RMWS offers greater precision in estimating the number of crimes and MEO violations that have occurred.

Key Findings

RAND Researchers Estimate That, as of Early Fall of 2014, Approximately 270 of the U.S. Coast Guard's 39,000 Active-Duty 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-duty women and 0.3 percent of active-duty men.

Nearly a Quarter of Active-Duty Women Experienced Sexual Harassment or Gender Discrimination in the Past Year

  • The majority of these sex-based military equal opportunity (MEO) violations involve experiences consistent with a sexually hostile work environment or gender discrimination.
  • Our estimate of the prevalence of sex-based MEO violations against active-duty Coast Guard men is substantially lower, though still affecting about 1 in 22 men. These violations usually involve hostile work environments.

The Study Found That A Smaller Proportion of Coast Guard Members Experienced Sexual Assaults Than Found Among Their Counterparts in the Other U.S. Military Services

  • In forthcoming reports, RAND will investigate if some of these service differences are attributable to differences in member demographics (e.g., age and education levels), cultures, or policies across services.
  • Men in the Coast Guard experienced lower rates of sex-based MEO violations than men in the other services.

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.

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.

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