Gender Differences in Experiences of Military Sexual Assault Victimization


Name: Jacqueline Rychnovsky

Rank: CAPT

Organization: Naval Health Research Center

Performance Site: Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, CA

Year Published: 2014

Abstract Status:


The broad long-term objective of this study is to provide information about differences in the military sexual assault (MSA) experiences of male and female service members. Arming healthcare providers with this knowledge will enable them to better understand the needs of their patients, and then tailor the care and resources provided to their patients. 

The study is a three-phase effort which aims to (1) describe gender differences in the nature and characteristics of MSA; (2) create a taxonomy to describe the patterns of MSA most commonly experienced by male and female service members; (3) determine the questions most likely to elicit information about men’s and women’s MSA experiences; and (4) use qualitative data to develop a contextualized understanding of men’s and women’s MSA experiences, including the context and nature of the victimization, attributions of responsibility and blame, perceptions of trauma outcomes and coping strategies, factors that influence disclosure, and reactions from others following disclosure.  

In Phase 1, statistical analyses of archival data will examine gender differences in the nature and characteristics of MSA. Cluster analysis will identify separate taxonomies of the types of sexual assaults experienced by male and female service members. 

In Phase 2, a brief, anonymous internet survey of active-duty service members will screen for unwanted sexual contact as well as other negative interpersonal experiences (e.g., physical assault, bullying, hazing, harassment) in the military. Questions will be asked in different ways and within different contexts to determine the most effective way to elicit information about sexual assault experiences from males versus females. This survey will also function as a screening mechanism to recruit participants for the next phase. 

Phase 3 will consist of in-depth, qualitative interviews of male and female active-duty personnel who report MSA experiences. Content analysis will identify themes that are common to men’s and women’s experiences and to identify themes unique to each gender. 

Findings from these three phases of research will be used to develop recommendations for policy and practice. Actionable findings will be summarized for dissemination to key service providers supporting victims of MSA.