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Air Force Sexual Assault Situations, Settings, and Offender Behaviors


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Recent high-profile reports and incidents have highlighted the ongoing problem of sexual assault within the U.S. military. For example, the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study indicates that 2.90 percent of active-duty U.S. Air Force women and 0.29 percent of active-duty Air Force men had experienced a sexual assault in the past year (Morral, Gore, and Schell, 2015a, p. 10). Among the women who were sexually assaulted, 82 percent indicated that the offender was another member of the military. To combat sexual assault, the Air Force has taken a number of actions to improve prevention and response efforts, including seeking more information about offender characteristics and behaviors and the situations and settings in which sexual assaults occur. The vast majority of information on sexual assault offenders and how they operate comes from studies of offenders in the general civilian population. Although many risk factors for sexual assault perpetration have been identified in the literature, previous sexual assault behavior appears to be the strongest available predictor of future behavior. Research has also found that the strategies and behaviors of sexual assault offenders vary. For example, their tactics and levels of force may differ according to whether the victims are acquaintances or strangers or whether the offenders have consumed alcohol prior to the sexual assault. In addition, although some offenders make deliberate decisions that lead to a sexual assault, some research suggests that many offenders make a series of often seemingly irrelevant decisions that lead to opportunities for committing sexual assault. Although there is much to learn from the empirical literature examining civilian populations, sexual assault offenders in the Air Force may execute their strategies in different ways, including in military-specific situations that may present them with different types of opportunities.



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