Re­port on mil­i­tary male-on-male sex as­sault re­tracted

Method for se­lect­ing, sur­vey­ing veter­ans said to be flawed

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion has taken the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of re­tract­ing an in-house jour­nal ar­ti­cle that as­serted the rate of rape and other sex­ual trauma among mil­i­tary men was as much as 15 times higher than the Pen­tagon’s own sur­vey.

In a press re­leased posted last week, the APA said out­side schol­ars had ex­am­ined the study, “Pre­lim­i­nary Data Sug­gest Rates of Male Sex­ual Trauma May be Higher than Pre­vi­ously Re­ported,” and de­ter­mined that the method for ran­domly se­lect­ing and sur­vey­ing male com­bat veter­ans was flawed.

“Al­though the ar­ti­cle went through our stan­dard peer-re­view process, other schol­ars have since ex­am­ined the data and raised valid con­cerns re­gard­ing the de­sign and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis, which com­pro­mise the find­ings,” Gary R. Van­denBos, APA’s pub­lisher, said in an­nounc­ing the re­trac­tion.

Hav­ing to re­tract find­ings it bal­ly­hooed just a week ago is clearly an em­bar­rass­ment for the world’s largest as­so­ci­a­tion of psy­chol­o­gists with nearly 122,000 mem­bers.

The APA sent out a press release Nov. 2 tout­ing the mil­i­tary male find­ings among 12 other ar­ti­cles on mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma in the jour­nal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices.

“Rates of mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma among men who served in the mil­i­tary may be as much as 15 times higher than has been pre­vi­ously re­ported, largely be­cause of bar­ri­ers as­so­ci­ated with stigma, be­liefs in myths about male rape, and feel­ings of help­less­ness,” the APA said Nov. 2.

APA is not re­tract­ing the other ar­ti­cles with a gen­eral theme that mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma is un­der­re­ported.

Sean Sheppard, a psy­chol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Utah and lead re­searcher for the now-re­tracted ar­ti­cle, told The Wash­ing­ton Times last week that his sur­vey method of a ran­domly se­lected 180 veter­ans en­abled him to un­cover the true rate of male sex­ual as­sault.

The APA re­trac­tion said mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma was broadly de­fined in the jour­nal ar­ti­cles and in­cluded sex­ual as­sault, sex­ual bat­tery or re­peated, threat­en­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing mil­i­tary ser­vice.

But in Mr. Sheppard’s sur­vey ques­tion­naire, male sex­ual trauma equaled, “I was sex­u­ally as­saulted while serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.”

The Pen­tagon and the Jus­tice Depart­ment de­fine sex­ual as­sault as rape or other un­wanted sex­ual con­tact or a threat to com­mit such an as­sault.

The Rand Corp., which con­ducted the Pen­tagon’s lat­est sex­ual as­sault sur­vey, found that 12,000 mil­i­tary men said they were sex­u­ally as­saulted last year. Of those, 3,850 said they were the vic­tims of “pen­e­tra­tive” at­tacks, mean­ing they were raped.

A Rand spokesman con­firmed Mon­day that its re­searchers told the APA that its pub­lished study method­ol­ogy was flawed.

To ex­trap­o­late the APA ar­ti­cle, it would mean as many as 180,000 mil­i­tary men were sex­u­ally as­saulted, and of those, 57,750 were raped in one year.

“In the re­search that we con­ducted, broadly speak­ing, the rates of sex­ual as­sault are sig­nif­i­cantly higher,” Mr. Sheppard told The Times. “I couldn’t tell you whether that is due to rape or not, but you can make that hy­poth­e­sis.”

The study said: “Data from this study, al­though pre­lim­i­nary, sug­gest that pub­lished rates of male [mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma] may sub­stan­tially un­der­es­ti­mate the true rate of the prob­lem. Cur­rent work is un­der­way to repli­cate th­ese find­ings and ex­pand the scope of this re­search by as­sess­ing a broader range of be­hav­iors that com­prise sex­ual as­sault.”

“We know that there is un­der­re­port­ing among men and women, and hope that this spe­cial is­sue will help to bring aware­ness and treat­ment for those that serve and pro­tect us,” said the pe­ri­od­i­cal’s co-ed­i­tor, Michi Fu, a clin­i­cal prac­ti­tioner. “I per­son­ally wanted to pull to­gether schol­ar­ship af­ter hear­ing of re­ports of mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma be­ing so much more preva­lent than in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.”

“Al­though the ar­ti­cle went through our

stan­dard peer­re­view process, other schol­ars have since ex­am­ined the data and raised valid con­cerns re­gard­ing the de­sign and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis, which com­pro­mise

the find­ings.” —Gary R. Van­denBos, Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion pub­lisher

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