In what many might see as typical Pentagon fashion, the Department of Defense concluded in 2010 that “most active-duty members receive effective training on sexual assault.”
But a new University of Michigan study suggests otherwise. It raises questions about the effectiveness of the military’s efforts at sexual assault prevention and awareness.
As a result of widespread reports of military sexual misconduct, the Pentagon created a sexual assault prevention and response office in 2005. It oversees sexual assault training for all five branches of the military. Until now, the training had not been analyzed by outside researchers.
University of Michigan psychology and women’s studies researchers analyzed responses from more than 24,000 active-duty personnel from all five branches. They tested whether sexual assault training fostered accurate knowledge about the resources and protocols available.
According to the researchers, while about 93 percent of personnel received some form of sexual assault training in the past year, results of that training were less than impressive.
Fewer than one out of five personnel responded with 100 percent accuracy to six questions that measured knowledge of military sexual assault resources and protocol. About 33 percent correctly answered three or fewer items, the study found.
Just over half of these trainees thought the information they were provided was comprehensive, 30 percent reported it overlooked some critical topics, and 7 percent reported that the training missed many important issues.
Researchers say comprehensive training can result in fewer sexual assaults and a better knowledge of military sexual assault resources and protocols. Training, when done right, can be effective, they say. But researchers found that military sexual assault training is often lacking, both in content and the results it generates.
The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology.