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Many Female Veterans Report They Were Sexually Harassed

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FORT BRAGG — More women are in the military than ever before, but women veterans are reporting an alarming rate of sexual assault.

At Fort Bragg and at all other military installations, there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment and assault. However, a study of female veterans shows many were victims at some point in their career.

Saundra Clagett has good memories of her 14 years in theArmy, but she remembers a sexual advance by her supervisor.

"My senior NCO put his hands on me on a body part not to be acceptable to be touched," said Clagett.

Clagett is one of more than 3,000 female veterans nationwide who recently answered a questionnaire by a Veterans Affairs health research group. The findings showed that one in four female veterans report being sexually assaulted during a tour of duty.

Dr. Joseph McFadden is the chief of Mental Health Services for the Fayetteville VA Medical Center. He says the study shows a common reluctance of women to come forward.

"A great deal of this happened with people who were in superior positions to these women. They did evaluations for them. They were responsible for promotions, and to bring charges against them, most felt would put them in some jeopardy," said McFadden.

Counseling is available for women at the VA's Women's Clinic, and efforts are underway in the military to stop assaults.

Sexual harassment and assault issues are addressed to units by their commanders at least once a year. Clagett hopes the training will help, but she does not believe it will end the problem.

"I don't believe it will ever stop," said Clagett.

TheDepartment of Veterans Affairsrecently published a national toll free number to remind women about sexual trauma counseling and treatment that is available.

That number is1-800-827-1000.


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