23% of Female Troops Suffer Sex Assaults in War Zones

And about half report sex harassment, survey finds

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 27, 2012 6:09 AM CST | Updated Dec 27, 2012 7:46 AM CST

(Newser) – Nearly half of US women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan say they've suffered sexual harassment, and almost a quarter say they've been sexually assaulted, a Department of Veterans Affairs study finds. But far less than that gets reported: Just 115 assaults were reported last year, though as of February, there were 20,000 women serving in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says. The study highlights the fact that combat isn't the only danger in a war zone, says a lead author.

Researchers in the anonymous study sent surveys to some 1,100 women who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. About 48.6% reported sexual harassment, while 22.8% reported assaults; almost all the offenders were fellow servicemembers, and 47% reported that the offender held a higher rank. In the military as a whole, only 4.4% of women reported "unwanted sexual contact." In war zones, women lack a "safe haven," and "it comes down to the culture," a California congresswoman tells USA Today. "(It) hasn't changed, no matter what the generals or the secretaries of Defense say about zero tolerance. They have not scrubbed the sexism out of the military."

In this Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009 file photo, US soldiers patrol the outskirts of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
In this Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009 file photo, US soldiers patrol the outskirts of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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