Military’s sexual-assault survey offends members, intrusive and graphic questions

Soldiers of Task Force Eagle Assault, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base Wolverine in Zabul province, Afghanistan fill out forms before recording their holiday greetings to loved ones back home. Photo credit: DOD 2010

A survey conducted by the military every two years has left several service member feeling violated and offended. However offensive it may be, the sexual-assault questionnaire provides important data to military leaders, allowing them to develop prevention and counseling programs for those in need of the services.

According to the Northwest Report, the explicit questions on the survey has caused some service members to complain to Pentagon officials and even set it aside to go unanswered.

This year’s survey was developed by Rand Corporation. It is more detailed than years past, asking graphic personal questions on sexual acts.  Rand defended its design, stating that the more detailed questions are essential.

Nate Galbreath, Senior Executive Advisor for the Pentagon’s sexual-assault prevention office, agrees with the company. “This is a crime of a very graphic nature,” he said.  “For us to improve our understanding, it sometimes requires asking tough questions.”

He added that the decision to hire Rand was per direction from Congress that the effort be totally independent of the Pentagon. Galbreath is aware of the complaints but stated that accurate results are needed to provide the best for the service members.  Accurate results require more detailed and seemingly invasive questions.

U.S. News & World Report reported that some military members stated they were both shocked and upset about the questions. Some even felt re-victimized by the blunt language.  The Pentagon confirmed complaints of “intrusive” and “invasive” questions.

The Associate Press was able to obtain the survey questions. They asked about sexual contact, unwanted advances and experiences and used specific words about kinds of penetration, body parts and objects.

One of the questions:

“Before 9/18/2013, had anyone made you insert an object or body part into someone’s mouth, vagina or anus when you did not want to and did not consent?”

Jill Loftus, Director of the Navy’s sexual assault prevention program confirmed they have received several complaints. “I’ve heard second- and third-hand that there a number of women, officers and enlisted, who have gotten to the point where they’ve read the questions and they’ve stopped taking the survey.  They found them to either offensive or too intrusive.  ‘Intrusive, invasive’ are the words they used,” she said.

According to U.S. News & World Report, members of Congress forced changes in the Pentagon’s legal and command procedures last year when a report revealed that approximately 26,000 military members may had been sexually assaulted or subjected to unwanted sexual contact.

Loftus shared that the Navy sends its own survey to sailors and Marines that is not as specific in terms of the questions. She added, “We think we’ve done a very good job of trying to make people aware of what sexual assault is.”

The Northwest Report reported approximately 560,000 active duty, National Guard and Reserve members were invited to fill out the questionnaire. This was about five times the number of personnel the survey was sent to two years ago. Officials did not share how many responses they have received so far.


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