In March 1994, the Deputy Secretary of Defense asked the Secretary
of the Air Force and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel
and Readiness to develop a sexual harassment policy action plan.
This plan was provided in April 1994 and included among its elements
(1) the establishment of a Defense Equal Opportunity Council (DEOC) Task Force on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment to review the Military Services' discrimination complaints systems and recommend improvements, including the adoption of Department-wide standards, and (2) the conduct of a Department-wide sexual harassment survey because one had not been fielded since 1988.
Three surveys were used in the study. The first survey (Form
A) replicated a 1988 DoD-wide survey that produced the first baseline
data on sexual harassment in the active-duty Services. The sole
purpose of administering the Form A survey was to permit comparisons
of sexual harassment incident rates in the 1988 and 1995 time
The second survey (Form B) differed from the first in 3 major
ways. It provided: (1) an expanded list of potential harassment
behaviors that survey respondents could report; (2) an opportunity,
for the first time, to report on experiences that occurred outside
normal duty hours, not at work, and off the base or installation;
and (3) measures of service members' perceptions of the complaint
process and training. The main purposes of the second survey
were to assess:
The third survey (Form C) was administered to a small sample
of active-duty members for research purposes, to transition to
using one survey in future research. No results were calculated
from this survey. The three surveys were sent to over 90,000
active-duty military members from February 15 to September 18,
1995. About 30,000 personnel received Form A and about 13,600
completed the survey, for a response rate of 46 percent. Because
detailed analyses of Form B were planned, about 50,000 personnel
received it and about 28,300 completed it, for a response rate
of 58 percent. Form C was mailed to about 9,500 and about 5,300
completed it, for a response rate of 56 percent. No military
member received more than one survey.
Based on responses to Form A, survey respondents' reports of sexual harassment declined significantly since 1988. In 1988, 22 percent of active-duty military personnel (64 percent of women and 17 percent of men) reported one or more incidents of sexual harassment while at work during the year prior to the survey. In 1995, 19 percent of personnel (55 percent of women and 14 percent of men) reported one or more incidents while at work in the year prior to the survey. Results for the 10 categories used on this survey are summarized below. Reports
of sexual harassment incidents declined in most categories.
of sexual harassment incidents declined in.
|Type of Sexual Harassment|
|Any Type (one or more)|
|Pressure for Sexual Favors|
|Pressure for Dates|
|Attempts at Other Activities|
Form A, the replication of the 1988 survey, was fielded for the
sole purpose of comparing reports of unwanted sexual attention
in 1995 and 1988. Senior DoD officials believed these indicator
data would be extremely important in answering the overall question,
"Have we improved?"
Although Form A would allow comparisons to the 1988 baseline,
senior officials also were aware the 1988 survey could be improved.
First, the earlier survey did not provide any opportunity for
respondents to report about certain types of behavior related
to sexual harassment. Second, it limited reporting to incidents
that occurred "at work." Third, it did not contain
items that measured some areas of importance to policy makers,
e.g., how much training was being provided, how effective was
the training, what were respondents' opinions of the complaint
process? Therefore, the decision was made to field two surveys:
Form A would provide comparative data; Form B would permit collection
of important information that would broaden the Department's understanding
of sexual harassment in the active-duty Military Services in 1995.
Because the survey contained a considerably expanded list of
behaviors for reporting unwanted sexual attention, and because
some of these were not sexual harassment per se (e.g.,
assault, sexist behavior items), the Form B survey was titled,
"Status of the Armed Forces: Gender Issues."
An extensive incident reporting list, consisting of 25 items
(versus 10 used in 1988), was developed and used in Form B. After
the data were collected, the 25 items were factor analyzed and
reported in five broad categories: (1) Crude/Offensive Behavior,
e.g., unwanted sexual jokes, stories, whistling, staring; (2)
Sexist Behavior, e.g., insulting, offensive and condescending
attitudes based on the gender
of the person; (3) Unwanted
Sexual Attention, e.g., unwanted touching, fondling; asking for
dates even though rebuffed; (4) Sexual Coercion, e.g., classic
quid pro quo instances of job benefits or losses conditioned
on sexual cooperation; and (5) Sexual Assault, e.g., unsuccessful
attempts at and having sex without the respondent's consent and
against his or her will.
As mentioned, the 1988 survey limited the reporting of incidents
to those that occurred at work. The 1995 Form B considerably
broadened the context in which respondents could report experiences.
Survey respondents were asked to report "Experiences in
the last 12 months related to your gender, including unwanted
sex-related attention ... in situations involving military personnel
(on or off duty; on or off base/post) and/or civilian employees
and contractors employed in your workplace." Results are
summarized in the following table.
|Type of Sexual Harassment|
|Any Type (one or more)|
|Unwanted Sexual Attention|
Administering a new survey that more than doubled the possible
categories of reporting and broadened the circumstances under
which harassment could be reported to include off-duty hours,
off-base, etc., clearly ensured the rates would be higher on this
form than the Form A/1988 survey. Based on responses to the 25
items from Form B, 43 percent of active-duty military (78 percent
of women and 38 percent of men) indicated they had experienced
one or more of the behaviors listed in the survey during the previous
Many did not. Because numerous new items were included on the
Form B survey, a question was added that asked respondents if
they considered any of the behaviors
they checked in the 25-item list "sexual harassment."
Although 78 percent of women and 38 percent of men checked one
or more items, only 52 percent of women and 9 percent of men indicated
they considered the experiences they checked sexual harassment.
The following table summarizes the overall survey results. In
1988, 64 percent of active-duty women and 17 percent of men reported
experiencing one or more instances of sexual harassment based
on a 10-item list provided in the survey. In 1995, the same survey
(re-labeled Form A) was administered to active-duty service members
and 55 percent of women and 14 percent of men reported experiencing
one or more instances of sexual harassment. In 1995, a new survey
(Form B) was also fielded. It was labeled a "Gender Issues"
survey and contained an expanded list of 25 items potentially
related to sexual harassment, e.g., quid pro quo items
and sexist behavior items. On this survey, 78 percent of women
and 38 percent of men reported experiencing one or more incidents
on the 25-item list. When the rate is calculated as those who
had one or more experiences and considered at least some to be
harassment, the percentages are 52 percent for women and 9 percent
|1995 Survey - Form A||55||14|
|1995 Survey - Form B||78||38|
|1995 Survey - Form B (percent saying they considered the experiences sexual harassment )||52||9|
Based on the data collected in this study, there is evidence that sexual harassment is significantly declining in the active-duty Military Services. Between 1988 and 1995, the percentage of women reporting incidents of sexual harassment declined 9 percentage points, and the percentage of men reporting incidents declined 3 percentage points. In addition, data obtained from the second survey (Form B) have helped us to obtain a fuller understanding of the experiences and perceptions of active-duty military members. The following section provides additional findings.
Within the active-duty military, junior enlisted personnel (E1-E4)
reported at somewhat higher rates than senior enlisted (E5-E9)
or officers. Among junior enlisted, 49 percent reported experiencing
one or more instances of sexual harassment compared to 40 percent
of senior enlisted and 39 percent of officers.
|Junior Enlisted (E1-E4)||83||43|
|Senior Enlisted (E5-E9)||74||35|
The analysis of Form B indicated that Black men reported incidents
at slightly higher rates than White men. The overall rates for
Black and White females were not significantly different.
The most frequently cited sources of harassment, for both women
and men, were military co-workers (44 percent of women and 52
percent of men), other military personnel of higher rank/grade
(43 of women and 21 percent of men), and other military persons
(24 percent of women and 22 percent of men).
|Other Military of Higher Rank/Grade||43||21|
|Other Military Person(s)||24||22|
|Immediate Military Supervisor||18||11|
Sexual harassment primarily occurred on military installations,
at work, and during duty hours. For example, 88 percent of women
and 76 percent of men who reported they had experienced sexual
harassment indicated that all or most of it occurred on a military
|All or Most||88||76|
In terms of when the reported experiences occurred, 74 percent
of women and 68 percent of men reported that all or most of the
experiences occurred while at
work. In addition, 77 percent of women and 68 percent of men
reported that all or most of the experiences occurred during duty
hours. Only 5 percent of women reported none occurred on an installation,
14 percent said none occurred at work, and 9 percent said none
occurred during duty hours.
|All or Most Occurred at Work||74||68|
|Some Occurred at Work||13||12|
|None Occurred at Work||14||20|
|All or Most Occurred during Duty Hours||77||68|
|Some Occurred during Duty Hours||13||13|
|None Occurred during Duty Hours||9||19|
Active-duty military personnel are increasingly reporting their
experiences. Approximately 24 percent of those who indicated
experiencing an incident chose to report the incident (40 percent
of women and 17 percent of men). In the 1988 survey, 8 percent
of women and 10 percent of men who experienced sexual harassment
chose to report the incidents. Victims of sexual harassment most
often report these incidents to their immediate supervisor (26
percent of women and 11 percent of men), someone else in the chain
of command (21 percent of women and 8 percent of men), and the
supervisor of the person bothering them (18 percent of women and
8 percent of men).
|My Immediate Supervisor||26||11|
|Supervisor of Person Bothering Me||18||8|
|Someone Else in My Chain of Command||21||8|
Fifty percent of women and 22 percent of men reported that the
person who bothered them was talked to about the behavior and
20 percent of women and 10 percent of men reported that the person
who bothered them was counseled. However, 39 percent of men and
15 percent of women indicated no action was taken and 23 percent
of women and 16 percent of men said their complaint was discounted
or not taken seriously. Fourteen percent of women and four percent
of men indicated their complaint was/is being investigated. Finally,
about 10 percent of those reporting their experiences said they
did not know what action was taken.
|Person Was Talked to About the Behavior||50||22|
|Person Was Counseled||20||10|
|My Complaint Was/Is Being Investigated||14||4|
|I Was Encouraged to Drop Complaint||10||7|
|My Complaint Was Not Taken Seriously||23||16|
|My Supervisor (or Others in Chain of Command) Was Hostile||12||8|
|My Co-Workers Were Hostile||9||4|
|No Action Was Taken||15||39|
|I Don't Know What Action Was Taken||9||10|
Where the incident went unreported, women most commonly gave
as a reason for not reporting that they took care of the problem
themselves (54 percent). Men, more frequently than women, said
that they did not think the matter was important (51 percent of
men and 35 percent of women). Twenty percent of women and 10
percent of men said they did not think anything would be done.
In terms of negative consequences, 25 percent of women and 13
percent of men indicated they did not report because they thought
it would make their work situations unpleasant. Seventeen percent
of women and 8 percent of men thought they would be labeled troublemakers.
Thirteen percent of women and 10 percent of men did not want
to hurt the person who bothered them.
|Took Care of Problem Myself||54||47|
|Did Not Think It Was That Important||35||51|
|Did Not Think Anything Would Be Done||20||10|
|Would Make My Work Situation Unpleasant||25||13|
|I Would Be Labeled a Troublemaker||17||8|
|Did Not Want to Hurt the Person Who Bothered Me||13||10|
|I Was Too Embarrassed||11||6|
|I Thought I Would Not Be Believed||9||3|
|I Thought My Performance Evaluation Would Suffer||8||5|
Yes, to some extent. Service members who reported they
had experienced sexual harassment also were asked if they had
experienced "a performance rating that was unfairly lowered."
Overall, 20 percent of women and 9 percent of men who had experienced
sexual harassment reported this had occurred to a small, moderate,
or large extent.
|Small to Moderate Extent||12||5|
When asked if they felt "free to report sexual harassment
without fear of bad things happening" to them, considerably
fewer women than men felt they could do so to a "large extent."
|Small to Moderate Extent||28||15|
Of those service members who reported their experiences,
35 percent of women and 33 percent of men were dissatisfied with
the complaint process overall. About a third were neither satisfied
nor dissatisfied and a third were satisfied.
Seventy-nine percent of women and 85 percent of men reported
receiving sexual harassment training. In terms of how much training
had occurred in the last 12 months, 26 percent of women and 34
percent of men reported receiving 4 hours or more of training.
Forty percent of women and 42 percent of men reported receiving
one to four hours of training. In addition, 98 percent of women
and men reported they knew what kinds of words or actions are
considered sexual harassment. When asked how effective the training
was in reducing or preventing sexual harassment, 54 percent of
women and 65 percent of men said "moderately to very effective,"
33 percent of women and 27 of men said "slightly," and
12 percent of women and 8 percent of men said "not effective."
|Moderately or Very Effective||54||65|
Eighty-seven percent of women and 89 percent of men said
they knew the process for reporting sexual harassment. Junior
enlisted (E1-E4) were less likely to know how to report (83 percent),
compared to senior enlisted (E5-E9) (92 percent), and officers
(95 percent). In terms of publicizing of formal complaint channels
at their current duty stations, 65 percent of women and 74 percent
of men said such channels had been publicized. Sixty percent
of junior enlisted (E1-E4) were aware of formal complaint channels
at their duty stations, compared to 79 percent of senior enlisted
(E5-E9) and 85 percent of officers. About 55 percent of men and
women reported they knew of a specific office that investigated
complaints at their duty station.
When those who had served in the military 2 to 5 years were asked
"How often does sexual harassment occur in the military now,
compared with a few years ago?", 46 percent of women and
58 percent of men reported sexual harassment was occurring less
often. Thirty-four percent of women and 27 percent of men reported
it was occurring at about the same rate, and 12 percent of women
and 7 percent of men indicated it was occurring more often. For
those who had served in the military 6 to 10 years, 60 percent
of women and 76 percent of men reported it was occurring less
often. Thirty percent of women and 18 percent of men indicated
it was occurring about the same, and ten percent of women and
five percent of men reported it was occurring more often.
|Less Often||About Same||More Often|
|Women (2-5 Yrs Service)||46||34||12|
|Women (6-10 Yrs Service)||60||30||10|
|Men (2-5 Yrs Service)||58||27||7|
|Men (6-10 Yrs Service)||76||18||5|
When asked their opinion about whether different leadership levels
made honest and reasonable efforts to stop sexual harassment,
53 percent of women and 67 percent of men answered "yes"
for senior leadership of Service, 52 percent of women and 67 percent
of men answered "yes" for the senior leadership of their
installation/ship, and 59 percent of women and 68 percent of men
answered "yes" for their immediate supervisor.
|Senior Leadership of My Service (Women)||53||38||10|
|Senior Leadership of My Service (Men)||67||28||5|
|Senior Leadership of My Installation/Ship (Women)||52||38||10|
|Senior Leadership of My Installation/Ship (Men)||67||29||4|
|My Immediate Supervisor (Women)||59||26||15|
|My Immediate Supervisor (Men)||68||24||7|
Over the course of several months -- in a series of more than
20 meetings -- the DEOC Task Force heard briefings from representatives
of the Military Departments, subject matter experts, and several
advocacy groups. The Task Force reviewed dozens of documents,
policy papers, and pertinent studies. Ultimately, the Task Force
concluded that only complaints processing systems that ensure
both unit effectiveness and fairness to individuals would enhance
military readiness. In the view of the DEOC Task Force, these
goals would be fulfilled by (1) complaints handling systems that
uphold principles of command commitment and accountability, (2)
Service distinctiveness, (3) clarity of policy, (4) effective
training, and (5) prompt, thorough and fair complaints handling.
The Task Force made 48 specific recommendations converging these
5 areas. The recommendations were approved by the Deputy Secretary
of Defense and incorporated in Department of Defense and Service
These survey results are encouraging. They document a decline
in harassment experiences and reflect DoD and the Services' increased
emphasis on combating sexual harassment. It should be noted the
timing of this study precluded measuring the effects of other
DEOC initiatives since the surveys were fielded concurrent with
those changes. No doubt, the additional DEOC Task Force initiatives
will advance the ability of the Department of Defense to combat
Regardless of improvements to date, any incidence of sexual harassment is unacceptable. In March 1994, Dr. Perry said, "Equal opportunity is not just the right thing to do, it is a military and economic necessity." He and all senior leaders in the Department are committed to implementing appropriate policies and safeguards to secure an environment in which all employees are assured of their basic right to carry out their jobs without harassment or discrimination.