Saturday, March 29, 2014

Military Men More Distressed by Sexual Harassment than Military Women


The Pentagon says about 3,000 service members reported being sexually assaulted in 2012, but a confidential Department of Defense survey suggests the figure is closer to 26,000 -- up 35 percent over 2010 ["Sexual Assault in the Military," CQ Researcher, 23(29)]. Of these, more than half are men, as the graphic at the top reveals.

New research suggests that male survivors suffer more distress than their female counterparts.

This makes sense. For men, in addition to the violation of their autonomy, they also lose their standing as masculine men. The FALSE belief is that a "real" man would not have been raped or assaulted. Further, a young male survivor (if he is hetero) may begin to question his sexuality, another powerful source of distress.

Military men more distressed by sexual harassment than military women

Date: March 27, 2014
Source: American Psychological Association (APA)

Summary:
Military men who are targets of frightening and threatening sexual harassment may experience more distress and work performance problems than military women who face the same treatment, according to research. "Men may be less likely to think they'll be sexually harassed, so it's a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions," an author said of the situation.

Military men who are targets of frightening and threatening sexual harassment may experience more distress and work performance problems than military women who face the same treatment, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
A total of 52 percent of military women said they had been sexually harassed compared with 19 percent of military men, and women more frequently reported they were very frightened by the experience than their male colleagues, according to a study published online in APA's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. "The surprise was that men were more upset and debilitated after experiencing frightening sexual harassment than women," said lead author Isis H. Settles, PhD, of Michigan State University.

"Men may be less likely to think they'll be sexually harassed, so it's a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions," Settles said. "Another possibility is that men feel less able to cope with their sexual harassment than women, who know it's a possibility and therefore are perhaps more emotionally prepared."

Researchers examined data from a 2002 Department of Defense survey of 17,874 service members, of whom 9,098 were men. A total of 6,304 male and female soldiers reported experiencing sexual harassment while on duty in the past year. Of those, 28 percent were men, 64.5 percent were white, 21.5 percent were African-American and 14 percent were Hispanic.

To differentiate between frightening and less serious harassment, the survey asked participants to recall one incident during the past 12 months that had the greatest effect on them and to rate the experience from being "not at all frightening and threatening" to "extremely frightening and threatening."

"Individuals were free to define how harassment made them feel. As such, frightening or threatening harassment could include experiences that were menacing, threatened their sense of job security, or were those they believed could escalate to an assault," said Settles.

Male soldiers reported that men were the perpetrators 52 percent of the time, while the other incidents involved both a man and a woman or a woman alone. For women, 86 percent of the harassment was by men, while the remaining incidents involved both men and women or only a woman. While soldiers of both genders reported more distress if sexually harassed by a higher ranking soldier, women reported more fear than men when their harasser was higher ranking. A total of 46 percent of men and 68 percent of women were sexually harassed by someone of higher rank.

The researchers assessed victims' level of distress, role limitations and work satisfaction based on their responses to survey questions. For example, to determine role limitations, participants indicated how often in the past four weeks they had difficulty doing their work or other daily activities as a result of physical or emotional problems.

Since the military is male-dominated and adheres to hierarchical, hyper-masculine cultural norms, more research is needed to determine whether the same results occur for men outside of a military context, the authors said.

"Overall, the findings illustrate the negative impact that sexual harassment has for both women and men, emphasizing the importance of organizations like the U.S. military to continue working to reduce its prevalence," Settles said.


Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association (APA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Settles, I.H., Buchanan, N.T., Yap, S.C.Y., Harrell, Z.A.T. (2014, Mar 17). Sex Differences in Outcomes and Harasser Characteristics Associated With Frightening Sexual Harassment Appraisals.. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(2); DOI: 10.1037/a0035449

Abstract:
This study examined data from U.S. military personnel (1,764 men; 4,540 women) to determine whether appraisals of sexual harassment as frightening mediate the relationship between perpetrator characteristics (perpetrator sex and rank) and three psychological/job outcomes (psychological distress, role limitations, and work satisfaction), and whether these relationships were stronger for women than men. Results indicated that frightening appraisals mediated the relationship between perpetrator rank and all outcomes for both sexes. However, frightening appraisals mediated the relationship between perpetrator sex and outcomes only for women. As predicted, having a male perpetrator or a higher status perpetrator was more strongly related to frightening appraisals for women than men. However, unexpectedly, the relationship between frightening appraisals and more psychological distress, more role limitations, and less work satisfaction was stronger for men than women. We discuss the results in terms of expectancy norm violations and sexual harassment as a form of dominance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)

2 comments:

Robert Cole said...

Given the source of this data and any gender bias that might influence the validity of the findings, this survey "study" may be very suspect and self-serving.

Studies such as these should have a caveat up front re: that the researchers or those who commissioned the research have a vested interest in the outcome.

Liz said...

I'm not clear how you suppose the bias affects the results, Robert. Could you be more specific?

All studies are biased, as any good researcher knows. They key is to acknowledge and try to design it out of the study. Without reading the entire paper, we don't know if they did this or not.

In any event, the results point to a lot of people being deeply distressed by sexual harassment, male or female. I don't see how that is controversial.

I'm not sure how to design it out of the military, however. It's a system that conditions people to dehumanize other people, by design, in order to function as a credible threat to other nations. War and rape go together.

Attempts to get rid of sexual harassment in the military is rearranging the deck chairs, IMO.