A poll last year found that one in four women in America have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Today comes a shocking report about a workplace in which almost that number of women say they’ve been sexually assaulted, and twice that share say they’ve been harassed. Is this happening in some politician’s office, perhaps, or on a movie set? Nope. It’s happening to American servicewomen in war zones.
The new research from the Department of Veterans Affairs is based on anonymous surveys of American women deployed to war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Researchers mailed surveys to more than 1,000 women who served in those conflicts. The department found that about half of the women say they’ve been sexually harassed, and almost a quarter say they’ve been sexually assaulted.
This adds up to thousands of women: Earlier this year, there were 20,000 women serving in Afghanistan. And it’s a much higher number than the number of formal complaints suggests. Just 115 sexual assault reports were filed by servicewomen in Afghanistan in 2011.
Almost all the women said their offenders were fellow servicemembers, and almost half said the offender held a higher military rank. California congresswoman Jackie Speier, who has tried to find better ways to investigate cases of military harassment and assault, tells USA Today that there are no safe havens for women at war.
“It comes down to the culture,” she tells reporter Gregg Zoroya. “[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.”