Study details sexual harassment in the Navy Navy tries to address "high- level concern."

February 10, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO -- The Navy pilot explained to a disciplinary board that he was only trying to bring some humor into the situation when he pulled his stunt with a female subordinate officer.

"I tried to lighten things up . . ." the lieutenant commander said. "I pulled my fly down and got up and pulled out my penis, turned around and said [to the woman], 'So, what do you think of that?' When a startled look crossed the woman's face, "I then put my penis back in my pants, sensing that my attempts at a joke to lighten the situation had failed," the pilot told the Navy board.

The incident was among several described in a newly published study of sexual harassment of female Navy officers. Conducted by retired Navy Cmdr. Kay Krohne, it is the first such in-depth study of the problem in the Navy.

Commander Krohne, who based her findings on research she conducted between 1988 and 1990, said that sexual harassment in the Navy and other branches of the armed forces stunts the "contributions of women to the military mission," lowering their productivity by forcing them to devote time and energy to fending off the unwanted advances.

Most of the types of harassment she found involved off-color jokes, sexual remarks and unsolicited physical contact.

Commander Krohne, who retired in 1989 after a 21-year Navy career, interviewed 61 female officers, of whom 40 -- or 65.5 percent -- said that they had been sexually harassed.

Her findings paralleled a 1990 Department of Defense report that showed 64 percent of the women in the U.S. military had been sexually harassed. Department of Defense officials said that sexual harassment is a vexing problem that can tear apart some military units if not quashed quickly.

Navy officials said that they had not seen Commander Krohne's report but were not surprised by its findings.

"One of our recent surveys showed that 75 percent of the women and 50 percent of the men said that sexual harassment was a problem," said Capt. Martha Whitehead, special assistant for women's policy to the chief of naval personnel in Washington. "So we know it's out there. It is a very high-level concern in the Navy."

"The harassment suffered by the eight women studied in this report is the tip of a very large iceberg posing a dangerous threat to the U.S. armed forces," said Commander Krohne.

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