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Women in the Military

OPB | March 29, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:19 p.m.

Women who serve in the military face some challenges that many of their male counterparts do not. At the Oregon Women Veteran Conference, there will be workshops on accessing VA benefits, employment outside the military, and healing from sexual trauma. Sexual assault in the military is not restricted to women, but the majority of reports documented by the Department of Defense are from female soldiers.

A recent Defense Department report (pdf) shows 3,230 reported incidents of sexual assault involving service members were filed in fiscal year 2009. This marks an 11% increase since 2008 in reported incidents. The Defense Department says the increase reflects an improved reporting system and not necessarily an increase in sexual assault among service members. In 2005, the department created a sexual abuse prevention and response office and changed its policies to allow for “restricted reporting,” which gives victims the option of reporting while remaining anonymous, provided they do not file criminal charges. 

Sexual assault and harassment have wide-ranging definitions, a spectrum that goes from inappropriate comments to rape. The report from the Defense Department, which focuses on unwanted physical contact, shows that reports of sexual misconduct involving military personnel are often higher in combat zones than they are elsewhere. 

Have you served in the military? How did your gender affect your experience?

What is life like for women who serve in the military?

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