Combat Fatigues

Study: Queer military service members at higher risk for sexual assault

A recent study by the Department of Defense conducted among US military service members has produced some unwelcome results: LGBTQ men and women are at higher risk for sexual harassment and assault.

US News & World Report reports the survey examined 544 service members, 10% of which identified as transgender or gender-nonconforming, and another 41% of which identified as LGBTQ. The study found that homophobic attitudes–a possible holdover from the military’s longstanding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which barred queer people from serving in the armed forces–continue to pervade among service members.

“It seems like some of those effects could linger, including sexual prejudice and discrimination, which may elevate victimization risk,” lead researcher Ashley Schuyler, a doctoral student in public health and human sciences at Oregon State University, said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that LGBTQ service members do experience an elevated risk of sexual and stalking victimization, even in this post-‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ era.”

Related: Banning gay sex in the military leads to sexual harassment and abuse, study finds

The survey found that gay and bisexual men and women are more likely to report sexual harassment and assault than their straight counterparts. In an interesting twist, gay and bisexual men were more likely to report harassment, though the number of heterosexual men who actually experienced sexual harassment was about the same. In other words, straight men often feel harassed, but don’t go public with their experiences.

Women, in general, were more likely to experience sexual assault or harassment than men, and queer women reported feeling harassed or assaulted at about the same rate as straight women. “Our conclusion was that female service members have such an elevated risk of sexual harassment in general, that being bi or lesbian doesn’t increase that risk,” Schuyler observed.

Researchers encouraged more investigation into harassment and sex crimes within the military, especially as more out-LGBTQ service members join the ranks.