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Report Shows Navy Ships Have High Rates Of Sexual Harassment, Assault

Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Junacie Godoy and a ship yard contractor, Tim Sto...

Credit: Defense of Department

Above: Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Junacie Godoy and a ship yard contractor, Tim Stover, attach a gasket to a hatch of the USS Theodore Roosevelt ported in San Diego, September 25, 2018.

A Pentagon study shows there is a high risk for sexual assault at military stations around the country, including some installations in San Diego, as well as ships home-ported in Southern California.

A new study by the RAND Corporation confirms the Navy has among the highest rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Many of the highest rates were found onboard ships.

Carolyn Allard is a psychology professor at Alliant International University. For a decade, Allard worked with trauma victims at VA San Diego. Some of the problems can be attributed to tradition on board certain ships and commanders who have traditionally not taken assault allegations seriously.

“It just takes having to address each and every instance, from the get go and very explicitly so and publicly so to start changing the culture and for people to get the idea that this won’t be tolerated,” she said.

The Army and Navy have ordered a follow-up study to determine how to lower the numbers at each of the commands.

Sexual harassment training won’t solve the problem, Allard said.

“My guess is it is a cultural shift that needs to happen, from the highest leadership down. In terms of no tolerance and calling it out and accountability every step of the way,” she said.

In 2017, 6,769 sexual assaults were reported to the Pentagon. That’s a nearly 10 percent jump over 2016. Researchers attribute some of that to more victims willing to come forward. Nearly one in three victims of sexual assault chose to report their incident to a DoD authority in 2016, which is more than the one in 14 who chose to report in 2006.

“They’re right. Their rates, if they increase, they’re just getting closer to the actual number. Because they’re much higher than what they’re able to find with their reporting rates,” she said.

In Southern California, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center at Twentynine Palms was listed as one of the top five most dangerous places for both men and women in the Marine Corps. The study uses survey data from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study. Researchers caution against using the data to determine which commands have the highest risk in 2018.

A Pentagon study looked at risk factors for every command in the U.S. military. Researchers found the Navy's high rate of sexual assault and harassment can be traced back to sea duty among some commands.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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