- The report was released by the American Psychological Association
- The findings are based on responses of 180 anonymous combat veterans
- Pentagon’s most recent report said 12,000 men reported being sexually assaulted, with almost 4,000 saying they had been raped
- But according to the study’s rate, the true figure could be as high as 180,000 sexual assaults, including 60,000 rapes
A study has found that up to 15 times more men in the military are being raped by other man than is being reported by the Pentagon.
The report, released by the American Psychological Association on Tuesday, is based on the responses of 180 anonymous combat veterans.
It says the under-reporting is largely due to the stigma associated with sexual assaults and is the reason that the true extent of male-on-male sexual crimes is so vastly underestimated.
The Washington Times reported that most recent Pentagon sexual assault report, conducted by The Rand Corp last year, found that around 12,000 men said they had been sexually assaulted.
The definition of sexual assault means they had been raped, experienced unwanted sexual contact or someone had attempted to commit those crimes.
Of that number, around a third – 3,850 reported rape or ‘penetrative’ assaults.
But the APA said: ‘Rates of military sexual trauma among men who served in the military may be as much as 15 times higher than has been previously reported, largely because of barriers associated with stigma, beliefs in myths about male rape and feelings of helplessness.’
Even though the Pentagon’s biannual reports are anonymous, men are still unwilling to report they have been assaulted, according to the report.
And if the study’s figure is correct, then it would suggest that actually, almost as many as 180,000 men are assaulted every year – and up to 60,000 are raped.
The report says: ‘Data from this study, although preliminary, suggest that published rates of male MST [military sexual trauma] may substantially underestimate the true rate of the problem.’
And it goes on to list the reasons that discourage both men and women from reporting the crimes, including the ‘fear of not being believed, self-blame, embarrassment and shame, and concerns about confidentiality.’
In the military, additional barriers include concerns about being charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for any behavior linked to the assault, such as underage drinking as well as fear of ostracization and retaliation.
‘The unique military culture that promotes discipline, loyalty, and cohesion may further discourage reporting of MST (military sexual trauma).’
Sean Sheppard, a psychologist at the University of Utah who led the study, said researchers used a random response technique that allowed them to determine more accurate base rates compared to Pentagon reports from the small sample.
‘In the research that we conducted, broadly speaking, the rates of sexual assault are significantly higher,’ he told the Times.
‘I couldn’t tell you whether that is due to rape or not, but you can make that hypothesis.’
He added that the military should understand that stigma and other factors can lead to under-reporting and make use of methods such as random response technique.
The study is part of a special issue of the journal Psychological Services.
The issue’s editor Michi Fu, a clinical practitioner, said: ‘We know that there is under reporting among men and women and hope that this special issue will help to bring awareness and treatment for those that serve and protect us.
‘I personally wanted to pull together scholarship after hearing of reports of military sexual trauma being so much more prevalent than in the general population.’
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