Male U.S. veterans who served during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are less likely than female veterans to label harassment experiences as sexual harassment, according to a new study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher.
The study, published in Psychological Trauma, was the first to examine the labeling of sexual harassment (SH) among both men and women recently deployed in support of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study found that servicewomen are five times more likely than servicemen to label their experiences as sexual harassment.
“Data indicating that men were less likely than women to report events as annoying, offensive, and disturbing suggests that SH experiences may impact men and women differently, perhaps due to men’s greater sociocultural power within military settings,” the researchers wrote. “It is also possible that myths suggesting men cannot be sexually victimized lead men to minimize SH or use terms other than SH to describe experiences.”
Sexual harassment is common in military service settings; labeling it as harassment may also be an important part of the recovery process. Despite the negative health consequences of sexual harassment, only about 48 percent to 70 percent of servicewomen label their experiences as sexual harassment; previous studies have suggested that the numbers are even lower among male veterans.
Via mail, the researchers contacted a random pool of 6,000 veterans, and received survey responses back from 2,348 participants. The mailed survey included questions about situations they experienced within the military; whether they label such experiences as sexual harassment; characteristics of the perpetrators; and the perceived need for mental health care since deployment.
They found that 9.2 percent of men and 47.8 percent of women reported experiencing events that constitute sexual harassment. Among those who reported sexual harassment, 7.8 percent of men and 48.1 percent of women reported assault. Moreover, 57.6 percent of women labelled their experiences as sexual harassment compared to only 11.7 percent of men.
Read more about the study.