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Sexual assault experiences vary for active duty military women depending on their relationship to the perpetrator

APA Citation:

Eliezer, D., Hilbert, A. J., Davis, L. H., Hylton, K., Klauberg, W. X., Hurley, M. M., ... & Galbreath, N. W. (2020). Sexual assault experiences vary for active duty military women depending on their relationship to the perpetrator. Journal of Family Violence, 35, 325-338. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-019-00085-9

Abstract Created by REACH:

Preventing sexual assault is an ongoing topic of discussion among military policy makers and clinicians, yet little research has focused on these experiences specifically among active-duty Service members. Using a sample of active-duty women (N = 1,230) who had experienced sexual assault in the past 12 months, the study analyzed differences in sexual assault experiences (e.g., type of sexual assault, location, support after reporting) based on the women’s relationship to the perpetrator (i.e., intimate partner, friend/acquaintance, stranger, not specified). The results showed that most women were assaulted by someone they knew. Further, women assaulted by an intimate partner were also more likely to report sexual harassment before and after the assault and to struggle to garner support from military leadership and victim advocates after reporting.



Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study
Secondary Analysis


Eliezer, Dina, Hilbert, Aubrey J., Davis, Lisa H., Hylton, Kimberly, Klauberg, William Xav, Hurley, Maia M., Gitlin, Zachary J., Dyches, Karmon D., Galbreath, Nathan W.


We examined how sexual assault experiences vary depending on active duty women’s relationship to their perpetrator (intimate partner versus acquaintances/friends, strangers, and unspecified perpetrators). This study analyzed weighted data from a 2016 survey representative of active duty Service members regarding their sexual assault experiences in the past year. Independent sample t-tests compared experiences based on the nature of the relationship between the victim and perpetrator. Military women sexually assaulted by intimate partners were more likely than those assaulted by non-intimate partners to indicate multiple incidents of sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault, stalking and sexual harassment before and after an incident, and a history of sexual assault in their lifetime. Military women sexually assaulted by intimate partners also indicated lower satisfaction with responses from leadership and victim advocates compared to other relationship types. Survey results distinguish intimate partner sexual assault from non-intimate partner sexual assault. While Department of Defense programs are organized around such differences, these results suggest further tailoring of prevention and response programs to reflect unique victim experiences.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Institute for Defense Analyses, DE
Booz Allen Hamilton, AJH
Department of Defense, Office of People Analytics, LHD
Fors Marsh Group, KHkhylton@forsmarshgroup.com
Klauberg, William Xav. Fors Marsh Group, WXK
Hurley, Maia M.. Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program, MMH
Booz Allen Hamilton, ZHG
Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, KDD
Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, NWG


active duty women, intimate partner violence, military sexual assault, sexual assault reporting

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  October 2020

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