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Violence Against Women in the Military


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Title: Violence Against Women in the Military

Violence Against Women in the Military
  • Martin Donohoe

  • Definitions
  • History
  • Data
  • Characteristics of abuse victims/perpetrators
  • Consequences of abuse (including PTSD)
  • Recent developments (DOD Review,
    Iraq/Afghanistan, available programs)
  • Advice for female armed services members
  • Reducing VAW in the military

Violence Against Women
  • Direct physical, sexual, emotional
  • Global health burden comparable to that of HIV,
    tuberculosis, and cardiovascular disease
  • Institutional social, legal, educational, and
    political marginalization

Rape as a War Crime
  • Common
  • Comfort women (WW II Japan)
  • Sudan
  • Rwanda
  • Bosnia
  • etc.
  • Notions of war/militarism and excessive

Violence Against Women Around Overseas U.S. Bases
  • gt 200,000 incidents involving military personnel
    and Japanese nationals (male and female) since
    1952 (gt 1000 deaths)
  • gt 300 rapes of Japanese citizens committed by
    U.S. personnel since 1945
  • Adverse effects on military agreements, support
    for U.S. troops

Women in the U.S. Military
  • More than 210,000 women are on active US military
  • 1.8 million female veterans (out of 23 million
    total veterans) 425,000 getting at least some
    care through VA
  • Almost 60,000 female troops have been deployed in
    Iraq and Afghanistan
  • 1 in 7 US military personnel in Iraq is female

  • Active duty troops
  • Army gt Marines gt Navy gt Air Force
  • Female, civilian spouses of active duty personnel

1991 Tailhook Scandal
  • gt100 officers at a Navy convention sexually
    assaulted and harassed dozens of women
  • None convicted
  • Investigation found that Navy brass had tacitly
    approved such behavior for years

Other Reports of Violence
  • 1996 Sexual assaults at Aberdeen Proving Ground
    in Maryland led to charges against a dozen Army
    drill instructors
  • several officers reprimanded
  • 2004 3 returning veterans who had served in
    Special Forces in Afghanistan killed their
  • Other homicides, suicides among returning vets

Violence and Homicides
  • 1997-2001 gt10,000 cases of spouse abuse per year
    occurred in the armed forces
  • 14 homicides
  • Likely a large underestimate (e.g., girlfriends
    not counted, under-reporting)
  • 1995-2004 218 domestic murders in the US military

  • 22 of active duty military women report physical
    abuse and/or sexual assault while in the service
  • 2004 Pentagon survey of the 3 military academies
    1/7 female cadets had been a victim of sexual
    abuse during the previous 5 years
  • Only 1/3 of incidents reported

  • 2004 DOD study
  • 7.4 of Air Force Academy cadets reported that
    they were victims of rape or attempted rape

Sexual Assault
  • U.S. Navy Study
  • Female victims
  • Attempted rape (9)
  • Completed (36) rape
  • Male perpetrators
  • Attempted rape (4)
  • Completed rape (11)

  • 2007-2010 18 increase in alleged sexual
    assaults committed by U.S. service members
  • Pentagon acknowledges 80 of rapes never reported
  • Child maltreatment more common during deployments
  • Suggests victims becoming perpetrators

Sexual Assault
  • Completed and attempted sexual assaults much more
    common among female soldiers than among other
    government employees

  • National phone survey of 558 Vietnam (and
    subsequent era) women veterans (response rate
  • 48 admitted experiencing interpersonal violence
    during military service, including rape (30),
    physical assault (35), or both (16)
  • 5 reported repeated rape
  • 5 gang rape

  • Baltimore VA study (response rate 52)
  • 68 reported at least 1 form of abuse
  • Sexual abuse (55)
  • Physical abuse (48)
  • Rape (41)
  • All 3 (27)
  • National sample of women Veterans Administration
    (VA) outpatients
  • 23 reported military-related sexual assault

  • VA Study (191 inpatients 411 outpatients)
  • 24 under age 50 report domestic violence in the
    past year (7 over age 50)
  • 90 under age 50 report a history of sexual
    harassment (37 over age 50)

Female Perpetrators
  • Female on male violence more common in military
    than among civilians
  • Moderate aggression 13 vs. 10
  • Severe aggression 4.4 vs. 2
  • LGBT violence under-reported
  • Lack of provider awareness
  • Dont ask / dont tell
  • One study found higher percentages of aggression
    among female ADM than among male ADM

Common Characteristics ofAbuse Victims
  • low self-esteem
  • guilt
  • self-blame
  • denial
  • traditional attitudes regarding womens roles
  • have children
  • poor financial resources
  • few job skills
  • less education
  • few friends
  • history of childhood abuse

Common Characteristicsof Abusers
  • low self-esteem
  • dependency
  • jealousy
  • poor communication skills
  • unemployed/underemployed

Common Characteristicsof Abusers
  • abuse alcohol/other drugs
  • have witnessed or experienced abuse as children
  • if immigrants, are more likely to have been
    victims of political violence
  • abuse their own children

Military families face unique stressors, which
increase the risk for family violence
  • Relocations
  • Long work tours
  • Frequent family separations
  • Dangerous work assignments

Combat stress and PTSD increase likelihood of
males perpetrating abuse
  • Veterans with combat exposure and PTSD have more
    marital problems
  • 1/3 of male veterans with PTSD engage in partner
  • Rate 2-3X higher than that for non-PTSD veterans
    and non-PTSD civilians

Health Consequences
  • Victims suffer higher rates of
  • chronic pelvic pain
  • dysmenorrhea
  • abnormal periods
  • PMS
  • dissatisfaction with sexual relations

Victims More Likely to Report
  • Chronic health problems
  • Lower health-related quality of life
  • Prescription medication use for emotional
  • Failure to complete college
  • Annual income lt 25,000
  • Depression (3X higher rate)
  • Alcohol abuse (2X higher rate)

  • More outpatient visits
  • Poorer self-rated health status
  • History of childhood violence and post-military
    violence more common

  • High levels of secondary victimization
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Distrust of others
  • Reluctance to seek further help

  • Risk of PTSD after sexual assault similar in both
    female and male veterans to that seen following
    high levels of combat exposure
  • Female veterans who had suffered sexual assault
    while in the military 9X more likely to have PTSD

PTSD Patients
  • Males 6.5 of combat veterans and 16.5 of
    non-combat veterans reported in-service or
    post-service sexual assault
  • Females 69 of combat veterans and 87 of
    non-combat veterans reported in-service or
    post-service sexual assault
  • Combat and sexual assault are the 2 most potent
    predictors of PTSD

Under-reporting by victims and spouses
  • Concern about husbands prospects for continued
    service and promotion
  • Perceived/real lack of confidentiality and
  • Limited victim services

Under-reporting by victims and spouses
  • Fear of retaliation and damage to their careers
    or being portrayed as disloyal
  • Those who do report are often punished,
    intimidated, or ostracized
  • Perpetrators of the most vicious crimes often
    transferred to another base or offered marriage
    counseling and anger management classes in lieu
    of more severe punishment

Under-reporting by victims and spouses
  • lt 10 of severely-abused Air Force women have
    reported abuse (2010)
  • 48 of female active duty military think abuse
    should be reported to commanding officer
  • 73 of female ADM (vs. 43 of female civilians)
    think mandatory reporting increases womens risk
    of further abuse
  • 82 of ADM think routine screening makes women
    less likely to disclose abuse to a health care

Prosecution and Punishment Rare, Promotion not
Uncommon for Perpetrators
  • Since 1992, nearly 5000 accused sex offenders in
    the Army, including rapists, have avoided
    prosecution and the possibility of prison time

Prosecution and Punishment Rare, Promotion not
Uncommon for Perpetrators
  • 1988-1993 80 of abusers who left the military
    received honorable discharges
  • Of those who remained in the military, 54 were
    promoted (compared with 65 of the overall
    military population)
  • Over the past 10 years, twice as many accused
    Army sex offenders were given administrative
    punishment as were court-martialed

2004 DOD Policy Review Notes Major Problems
  • Incomplete and poorly integrated data systems and
  • Significant gaps in documentation of victim
    treatment and case disposition
  • Inconsistent policies and procedures aimed at
    preventing sexual assault

2004 DOD Policy Review Notes Major Problems
  • Many barriers to reporting, including junior
    personnel who were not aware of reporting options
  • Only 20 of battered women in the U.S. seek
    treatment following an injury
  • Victims perceived (and in some cases real) lack
    of privacy and confidentiality.
  • New confidentiality provisions now in place

Iraq and Afghanistan
  • 1/7 female veterans of these conflicts seeking
    medical care at the VA had suffered sexual trauma
    (2008 study)
  • A deployed female soldier is more likely to be
    raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy

Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Many victims did not receive basic medical care
  • emergency contraception
  • rape evidence kits
  • testing for sexually transmitted infections
  • prophylactic treatment or testing for HIV
  • rape crisis counseling

Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Prosecution of crimes often delayed indefinitely
  • Many servicewomen continued to serve in the same
    unit with their assailants

  • Disturbing reports of sexual abuse and
    humiliation at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo
    military prisons
  • Five American soldiers allegedly raped and
    murdered a young Iraqi woman, burned her body,
    and killed three members of her family in their

Recent Developments
  • 1999 VA mandates that all veterans (male and
    female) be screened for military sexual trauma
  • Compliance still low
  • 2005 Congress establishes Sexual Assault
    Prevention and Response Office within the Defense
  • 2008 director ordered by DOD superiors not to
    testify before Congress re problems with office

Recent Developments
  • DOD requires health care provider training on
    domestic violence
  • Domestic violence advocates program and family
    support programs in place
  • Utilization still low
  • Civilian perpetrators barred from bases
  • Military police to work with local law enforcement

Victim Assistance
  • U.S. Armys transitional compensation program
    provides financial and other benefits to the
    families of service members discharged for child
    or spouse maltreatment, including victim
    assistance and offender rehabilitation

Victim Assistance
  • VA provides lifetime sexual assault victims
    counseling to all military veterans
  • After one leaves the service
  • Most counseled patients are males, who suffer
    lower rates of sexual assault but make up a large
    majority of veterans

Recent Developments
  • Military Domestic Violence and Sexual Response
  • Would reduce sexual assault and domestic violence
    involving members of the Armed Forces and their
    family members and partners through enhanced
    programs of prevention and deterrence, enhanced
    programs of victims services, and strengthened
    provisions for prosecution of assailants
  • In House and Senate subcommittees since mid 2009

Advice for Female Armed Services Members
  • Women on the front lines, who risk capture and
    being held as a prisoner of war (which puts them
    at even higher risk for sexual assault), should
    strongly consider commencing birth control
    pre-deployment with an intrauterine device or

Advice for Female Armed Services Members
  • Victims should report abuse and consider
    contacting local domestic violence organizations
    or the Miles Foundation, a Connecticut-based
    advocacy group for military victims of domestic
    violence (telephone 203-270-7861 Web page

Reducing Violence Against Women in the Military
  • Change in the sexist ideologies and practices
    long associated with militarism and war
  • Improvements in victim services, including
    enhanced confidentiality
  • Appointment of a central authority within the DOD
    to investigate and prosecute violent crimes
  • Enhanced curricular offerings to teach trainees
    and practicing clinicians how to recognize and
    manage the sequelae of domestic violence

Reducing Violence Against Women in the Military
  • Increased funding of domestic violence shelters
  • Laws to decrease the easy availability of
  • More funding for research, treatment, and
  • Changes in law and policy to protect victims and
    to improve the status of women

International Vehicles to Decrease Violence
Against Women
  • Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
    Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Calls for
    equality of the sexes in political, social,
    cultural, civil, and other fields

International Vehicles to Decrease Violence
Against Women
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1325 Mandates
    protection of, and respect for, human rights of
    women and girls and calls on all parties to armed
    conflict to take specific measures to protect
    women and girls from gender-based violence,
    particularly rape and sexual violence

International Vehicles to Decrease Violence
Against Women
  • International Criminal Court (ICC), established
    in 2002 Codifies accountability for gender-based
    crimes against women during military conflict by
    defining sexual and gender violence of all kinds
    as war crimes

International Vehicles to Decrease Violence
Against Women
  • U.S. has not ratified CEDAW, signed UNSCR 1325,
    nor signed on to the ICC
  • U.S. should show its commitment to improving
    women's rights worldwide by taking action on
    these items
  • The women and men who risk their lives in service
    to the ideals for which the United States ideally
    stands deserve no less.

Contact Information, Slide Shows, References, etc.
  • Public Health and Social Justice Website
  • http//
  • http//