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Unit Support Protects Against Sexual Harassment and Assault Among National Guard Soldiers

      Abstract

      Objective

      Despite concerns about increased sexual harassment and assault after the 2013 legislation repealing the ban on women in combat, little research has examined military factors that could prevent sexual harassment and assault during deployment. This study examined whether unit support, which reflects the quality of service members' relationships within their unit, protects against sexual harassment and assault during deployment.

      Methods

      Participants were 1,674 Ohio Army National Guard service members who reported at least one deployment during a telephone survey conducted in 2008 and 2009. Participants completed measures of sexual harassment/assault, unit support, and psychosocial support. Logistic regression was used to model odds of sexual harassment/assault.

      Results

      Approximately 13.2% of men (n = 198) and 43.5% of women (n = 74) reported sexual harassment, and 1.1% of men (n = 17) and 18.8% of women (n = 32) reported sexual assault during their most recent deployment. Greater unit support was associated with decreased odds of sexual harassment and assault.

      Conclusions

      A substantial proportion of men and women reported sexual harassment/assault. Greater unit support was associated with diminished odds of sexual harassment/assault during deployment. Programming designed to improve unit cohesion has the potential to reduce sexual harassment and assault.
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      Biography

      Dr. Kate Walsh, PhD, is a clinical psychologist completing a fellowship in substance use epidemiology at Columbia University. Her work focuses on the intersection of trauma exposure, particularly sexual violence, psychopathology, and substance use disorders in military and civilian populations.

      Biography

      Dr. Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, a physician and epidemiologist, is Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. His work focuses on causes of brain disorders, particularly mood-anxiety and substance use disorders, and he has an interest in consequences of trauma.

      Biography

      Magdalena Cerdá, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University. Her research focuses on lifecourse influences on substance use onset and continuity, new drivers and forms of illegal substance use, and neighborhood causes and mental health consequences of violence.

      Biography

      Dr. Catherine Richards, MPH, is an epidemiologist at Columbia University where she is manager for the Global Research Analytics for Population Health (GRAPH) Program and lead data visualization designer for the GRAPH website.

      Biography

      Dr. Israel Liberzon, MD, is a Professor Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan. His work centers on emotions, stress and stress related disorders like PTSD, particularly in the regulation and dysregulation of stress response systems.

      Biography

      Dr. Marijo B. Tamburrino, MD, is a psychiatrist at the University of Toledo. Her work is in the areas of posttraumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

      Biography

      Dr. Joseph Calabrese, MD, is a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University. His work focuses on the phenomenology and treatment of bipolar disorder, and he also studies mental health and functioning among National Guard personnel.

      Biography

      Dr. Karestan C. Koenen, PhD, is Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University. She uses a developmental approach to examine the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of stress-related mental disorders, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.