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Servicewomen’s strategies to staying safe during military service

Cheney A, Reisinger HS, Booth B, Mengeling M, Torner J, Sadler AG. Servicewomen’s strategies to staying safe during military service. Gender Issues. 2015 Mar 1; 32(1):1-18.

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Military women face circumstances that put them at risk for sexual harassment and physical and sexual assault during their military service. In this study, we qualitatively explore the strategies United States servicewomen employed to reduce their risk of violence exposure during overseas deployments to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on the analysis of 14 focus group discussions conducted from 2007 to 2010, we found that servicewomen used a number of protective strategies, including accessing networks of support, capitalizing on their status (linked to rank, age, or prior deployment experience), and wearing non-feminine clothing to minimize violence exposure keeping themselves and others safe. Through an in-depth analysis of servicewomen's experiences, we provide insights on the importance of better understanding issues related to women and gender in the military-an area that has little hypothesized or evidence-based knowledge. In light of the context-specific risk servicewomen face as women in the military, we believe that our work provides a foundation for future efforts designed to prevent the occurrence of sexual assault during military service. In particular, military-specific efforts to reduce sexual assault in the military might consider incorporating the strategies that servicewomen perceived as effective at reducing risk for violence into existing interventions and response programs.

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