~ September 2021 ~ A new review from the Department of the Air Force found that one in three servicewomen experienced sexual harassment.
The rate remained relatively steady when servicewomen returned to civilian life, with one in four female civilians reporting the same.
The Inspector General’s review published on Thursday showed that while white service members experienced the most instances of sexual harassment, Black members had more when considering rate-per-thousand analysis as a proportion of each racial group’s number of personnel in the Air Force.
White members also represented the largest racial group to have committing sexual harassment among the 299 investigations conducted in 2020, the review found that Black members made up a larger proportion of offenders in the rate-per-thousand analysis.
In 2019, the department received its highest number of sexual assault reports ever, with almost 1,700 involving service members.
“For women, the most serious identified type of harassment was sexual jokes that make them feel uncomfortable, followed by repeated attempts to establish an unwanted sexual or romantic relationship and sexual comments about their appearance or body,” the report stated.
Of both men and women who reported a sexual harassment incident, only one-quarter were satisfied with the complaint process.
More than 40 percent of female service members said that they were treated worse after filing a complaint and 38 percent were told to drop the issue.
The review confirmed an earlier finding by the Department of Defense that sexual assault is an underreported crime.
A number of females respondents who said they experienced sexual harassment told the Inspector General that they did not trust the chain of command to address the behaviors or feared retribution.
In a press release, Gina Ortiz Jones, the Under Secretary of the Air Force, said the department would work to rebuild trust in order to keep servicewomen in the workforce, but she stopped short of outlining a plan targeted to the gender disparities found in the report.
“These disparities and gaps in trust affect our operational readiness—we don’t have time or talent to lose,” Jones said. “We will actively work to rebuild that trust and ensure Department of the Air Force members, the ‘One Team’ our nation needs to protect our interests in air and space, can serve to their full potential.”
The report comes a day after an investigation was ordered into cases involving alleged domestic violence reported to the military.
In a statement made Wednesday, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he was “extremely troubled by the claims of inappropriate handling of domestic violence complaints” and would be ordering a comprehensive review into the complaints.
An investigation by CBS News found that there have been roughly 100,000 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the military in the last six years.