Baltimore Sun

Study: Army posts in Texas lead in risk of sexual assault

- By Lolita C. Baldor

WASHINGTON — Female soldiers at Army bases in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky face a greater risk of sexual assault and harassment than those at other posts, accounting for more than a third of all active-duty Army women sexually assaulted in 2018, according to a new Rand Corp. study.

The study, released Friday, looked at Army incidents and found that female soldiers at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, both in Texas, faced the highest risk, particular­ly those in combat commands or jobs such as field artillery and engineerin­g. And units with more frequent deployment­s to war also saw higher risk.

Other bases with high risk were Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Riley in Kansas, said the study which reviewed assault data from previous years.

Rand’s study provides greater detail on the rates of sexual assault and misconduct across the Army, a chronic problem that military leaders have been struggling to combat.

And it comes a year after the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who was missing at Fort Hood for about two months before her remains were found in late June 2020.

Guillen was killed by a soldier, who her family says sexually harassed her and then killed himself as police sought to arrest him. Her death put a spotlight on violence and leadership problems within the Army.

The Rand report also confirmed one of the Army’s conclusion­s about the impact of command climate, finding a lower risk of sexual misconduct in units with more positive supervisor scores.

The Fort Hood violence prompted an independen­t review, which found that military leaders were not adequately dealing with high rates of sexual assault and harassment at the post.

Christophe­r Swecker, the chairman of the review panel, told Congress that base leaders were focused on military readiness and completely neglected the sexual assault prevention program.

As a result, he said, lower-level unit commanders didn’t encourage service members to report assaults, and in many cases were shaming victims.

According to the Rand study, the risk of assault for women at Fort Hood was nearly a third higher than the average risk faced by all women in the Army. Overall, Rand said that the risk across the Army varied widely depending on the female soldiers’ base, unit, career field, age, and even whether they were at posts with a higher number of civilians.

For example, female soldiers in medical or personnel jobs have the lowest risk, while those in field artillery face the highest risk.

Field artillery jobs were among some of the last Army combat specialtie­s opened to women — that was in 2015. Other jobs that lagged behind were infantry, armor and special operations.

James Helis, director of the Army Resilience Directorat­e, said the study “sheds light on the environmen­tal and occupation­al factors that contribute to the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment for our soldiers and, in turn, will help inform future prevention and response efforts.”

The report used earlier Rand studies as well as data from Defense Department anonymous surveys in 2016 and 2018 that seek informatio­n about sexual assaults and harassment that may or may not have been formally reported. And it compared that to other military personnel and demographi­c data.

Soldiers assigned to the Washington, D.C. region, meanwhile, have some of the lowest risk totals, with the Pentagon showing the lowest of all installati­ons listed.

Among the bases with the lowest reported risk were Fort Belvoir, in northern Virginia, and Fort George G. Meade and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Maryland.

According to the study, an estimated 8.4% — or about 1 in 12 — of the roughly 5,883 Army women who served at Fort Hood were sexually assaulted, while at the Pentagon it was 1.8%, or about one in 50.

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