Fort Hood identified as least-safe post for female soldiers

Female soldiers have the highest risk of being sexually assaulted at Fort Hood, Texas, making it the least-safe post for women in the Army, according to a new RAND Corp. study.

The report, released Friday, found that female soldiers at Fort Hood have an 8.4 percent risk of sexual assault, nearly one-third higher than the 5.8 percent risk faced by the average woman in the Army.

In comparison, the study found the average risk of sexual assault for men in the service was 0.64 percent.

Other bases with a higher-than-average risk for women, in descending order, include Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border; and Carson, Colo.

RAND, which studied the risk of sexual assault and harassment for Army soldiers between August 2017 and July 2018, found that of the 5,883 women based at Fort Hood between those dates, 494 were sexually assaulted — about 1 in 12.

Women serving at the Pentagon had the lowest risk of sexual assault at 1.8 percent, or about 1 in 50.

The study linked the likelihood of sexual assault with the age and rank of the women typically assigned to either location.

“Fort Hood and Fort Bliss have large numbers of young, unmarried, less-educated, and junior-ranking soldiers, who are known to be at higher risk of sexual assault,” according to the study.

In contrast, women serving at the Pentagon are, on average, likely to be “older, more senior-ranking, more highly educated, and might have other personnel characteristics associated with lower total sexual assault risk.”

When researchers studied adjusted sexual assault risk, comparing posts with similar soldier demographics, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss were still highest on the list.

Fort Hood and Fort Bliss also topped the list as having the highest risk of sexual harassment for women.

Fort Hood, one of the Army’s largest U.S. installations, has long been known as one of the military’s most dangerous bases.

An independent review of the base’s command climate found a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment” at Fort Hood.

As a result of the review, 14 leaders were relieved of duty or suspended from their position in December, including the base’s commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt.

The review was sparked by the death of Pfc. Vanessa Guillén, 20, who went missing from Fort Hood and was later found dismembered after she told others she had been sexually harassed.

“At Fort Hood there was a clearly identified high risk of serious harm: sexual assault involving female Soldiers in the enlisted ranks, which could have been addressed decisively and in proactive ways to mitigate the risk,” the committee report states. “Unfortunately, a ‘business as usual’ approach was taken by Fort Hood leadership causing female Soldiers ... to slip into survival mode, vulnerable and preyed upon, but fearful to report and be ostracized and re-victimized.” 

The RAND study also found several factors that reduced the risk of sexual assault for women.

Army women at bases with more civilians, for example, faced lower sexual assault and sexual harassment risks.

A soldier’s chosen career field also played a role. Women in field artillery had the highest risk of sexual assault at 10.6 percent compared with women in recruiting and counseling, which had the lowest risk of assault at 1.9 percent.

Other career fields with lower-than-average risk include food safety, veterinary, nurse, logistics, health services, public affairs, financial management, chaplains, paralegals, Judge Advocate Generals and human resources.

The study recommended the Army provide new or supplementary prevention programs to the bases with highest total sexual assault risk and more closely monitor “sexual harassment risk as an early warning indicator of sexual assault risk.”

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