Combat deployment is associated with sexual harassment or sexual assault in a large, female military cohort

Cynthia A. LeardMann, Amanda Pietrucha, Kathryn M. Magruder, Besa Smith, Maureen Murdoch, Isabel G. Jacobson, Margaret A.K. Ryan, Gary Gackstetter, Tyler C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies have examined the prevalence, risk factors, and health correlates of sexual stressors in the military, but have been limited to specific subpopulations. Furthermore, little is known about sexual stressors' occurrence and their correlates in relation to female troops deployed to the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Methods: Using longitudinal data from Millennium Cohort participants, the associations of recent deployment as well as other individual and environmental factors with sexual harassment and sexual assault were assessed among U.S. female military personnel. Multivariable analyses were used to investigate the associations. Findings: Of 13,262 eligible participants, 1,362 (10.3%) reported at least one sexual stressor at follow-up. Women who deployed and reported combat experiences were significantly more likely to report sexual harassment (odds ratio [OR], 2.20; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.84-2.64) or both sexual harassment and sexual assault (OR, 2.47; 95% CI, 1.61-3.78) compared with nondeployers. In addition, significant risk factors for sexual stressors included younger age, recent separation or divorce, service in the Marine Corps, positive screen for a baseline mental health condition, moderate/severe life stress, and prior sexual stressor experiences. Conclusions: Although deployment itself was not associated with sexual stressors, women who both deployed and reported combat were at a significantly increased odds for sexual stressors than other female service members who did not deploy. Understanding the factors associated with sexual stressors can inform future policy and prevention efforts to eliminate sexual stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e215-e223
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work represents Naval Health Research Center report 11-53, supported by the U.S. Department of Defense , under work unit no. 60002, and funded by the Military Operational Medicine Research Program of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Maryland. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Navy, U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of the Air Force, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, nor the U.S. Government. The funding organizations had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, analysis, or preparation of data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.


Dive into the research topics of 'Combat deployment is associated with sexual harassment or sexual assault in a large, female military cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this