Vast number of women in military say they receive sexual pressures

September 12, 1990|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- In the first major study of sexual harassment in the military, more than a third of the women surveyed said they had experienced some form of direct harassment, including touching, pressure for sexual favors and rape.

In all, about two out of every three women surveyed, or 64 percent, said they had been sexually harassed, either directly or in more subtle ways, such as by catcalls, dirty looks and teasing.

In studies of employees in private business, where there tends to be a larger proportion of women in the work force than in the military, surveys have found that 30 percent to 40 percent complain of sexual harassment.

The Pentagon report, issued yesterday, appears to challenge the military's contention that women have integrated smoothly into the services and raises doubts about the success of new policies to change the ways of the tradition-bound military.

The findings come at a time when women make up 11 percent of the 2 million people on active duty in the military.

I= Although many women in the service say conditions have im

proved in the past several years, some signs suggest otherwise.

The Naval Academy, for example, is the target of at least six current inquiries into allegations of sexual harassment of female midshipmen.

The results of the latest investigation, ordered by Adm. Frank Kelso, the chief of naval operations, are expected to be released later this week.

DTC The Pentagon report, which collected responses from more than 20,000 men and women on active duty and took two years to complete, described a pervasive and often subtle denigration of women in an environment where policies aimed at preventing abuses are in place but frequently are not enforced.

Researchers said the survey was the largest attempt yet to measure sexual harassment in the workplace, public or private.

In another intriguing finding, 17 percent of the men surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by male or female colleagues.

The study did not give a breakdown on the sex of the harassers.

Pentagon officials acknowledged that yesterday's report identified serious problems but also emphasized that the findings were "a statistical benchmark for use in evaluating the effectiveness of policies designed to prevent sexual harassment."

"The results are sobering," the assistant secretary of defense for force management and personnel, Christopher Jehn, said.

"These numbers are clearly too high. But we think we're on the right path. We've got to redouble our efforts to bring the numbers down. The policy is clear: Sexual harassment will not be tolerated."

Members of Congress were not given advance copies of the study, a variation from normal procedure.

The report was written by the Defense Manpower Data Center, a branch of the Defense Department.

The study used data compiled in 1988 and 1989 from surveys mailed to a scientifically selected cross section of 38,000 military personnel worldwide.

About 60 percent of the people responded, a very high rate for polls.

The Pentagon issued several caveats about the report, noting the difficulty in defining sexual harassment and noting that the study had no precedents with which to compare its results.

Respondents were not asked directly or indirectly about sexual harassment; instead, they were asked to describe "uninvited and unwanted sexual attention."

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