DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS

CDMRP supports Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Research on Behalf of the Department of Defense

Posted April 27, 2021

Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., Harvard University
Lindsay M. Orchowski, Ph.D., Rhode Island Hospital
Nichole M. Scaglione, Ph.D., University of Florida
Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán, Ph.D., The Geneva Foundation
Amy M. Slep, Ph.D., New York University
Emily F. Rothman, Sc.D., and Casey Taft, PhD, Boston University Medical Campus
John H. Riley, Ph.D., United States Air Force Academy
Justin K. Benzer, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Belinda F. Hernandez, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

April is sexual assault awareness month for the Department of Defense (DOD), and according to the most recent DOD data (https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/1_Department_of_Defense_Fiscal_Year_2019_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military.pdf), Service Women experienced a statistically significant increase in estimated sexual assaults from 2016 to 2018. An estimated 12,927 Service Women experienced sexual assault in 2018. This was the first statistically significant increase in sexual assaults the DOD has recorded biannually since 2012. Additionally, an estimated 7,546 male Service Members also experienced sexual assault in 2018, however this increase was not a statistically significant increase from prior years. The time for effective prevention programming for sexual assault has never been more urgent. Research is necessary to ensure that the prevention activities enacted by the DOD are having the intended impact. This year the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, has reinforced this urgency by highlighting the importance of leadership in eradicating sexual assault and listing this goal as one of his priorities (https://media.defense.gov/2021/Mar/04/2002593656/-1/-1/0/SECRETARY-LLOYD-J-AUSTIN-III-MESSAGE-TO-THE-FORCE.PDF).   

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-2025 DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Research Agenda defines key research priorities to synchronize and focus the Department’s research on topics and methods that have the potential to result in near-term improvements in sexual assault prevention and response practice, and ultimately support sustained reductions in sexual assault and identify benchmarks in excellence for victim assistance (https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/public/docs/research/FY21-25_DoD_SAPR_Research_Agenda_FINAL.pdf).

The Military Operational Medicine Research Program’s Joint Program Committee 5 (MOMRP JPC-5), in collaboration with the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, has made recent strides to improve sexual assault research for the DOD. These studies represent a sample of the cutting-edge research that has been or will be provided to the DOD and Service-level offices via the endeavors of the MOMRP JPC-5 in efforts to eliminate sexual assault from the Force.  These recently closed or recently DOD-funded studies are highlighted below.

Dr. Ronald C. Kessler
Dr. Ronald C. Kessler

Sexual Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Warfighters in Army STARRS
Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., Harvard University

Dr. Ronald Kessler received a Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11) Defense Medical Research and Development Program Basic Psychological Health Award to perform in-depth epidemiological analyses of risk and protective factors for exposure to sexual assault within the military, buffers of effects of sexual assault on post-traumatic stress disorder, and barriers to treatment. Dr. Kessler and his research team developed risk algorithms to predict the first occurrence of victimization and perpetration of sexual assault from three sets of data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS). The models developed identified Soldiers at the highest risk of sexual assault exposure and perpetration with accuracy much better than would be expected by chance.  Soldiers determined to be at highest risk accounted for a large proportion of first occurrences of sexual assault victimization and perpetration. The research team built a full set of administrative predictors using the Army data from 2004-2012. This study has been completed.

 

 

Dr. Lindsay M. Orchowski
Dr. Lindsay M. Orchowski

Sexual Assault Prevention for Men in the Military
Lindsay M. Orchowski, Ph.D., Rhode Island Hospital

Dr. Lindsay Orchowski received an FY14 Psychological Health Research Award, to assess and adapt the Sexual Assault and Alcohol Feedback and Education (SAFE) program for use among male Soldiers who engage in at-risk drinking. Dr. Orchowski and her research team have completed recruitment. A peer-reviewed publication “Perceived and Collective Norms Associated with Sexual Violence among Male Soldiers” describing these findings has been published in the Journal of Family Violence. Given the psychological and physical health consequences associated with sexual violence, reducing rates of sexual assault in the military can significantly benefit Service Members and their families. If effective, Dr. Orchowski believes that this innovative strategy for sexual assault prevention can reduce rates of military sexual assault nationwide. This study is currently ongoing.


 

 

Dr. Nichole M. Scaglione
Dr. Nichole M. Scaglione

Reducing Sexual Assault at the U.S. Air Force Academy: Adaptation, Implementation, and Evaluation of the Sexual Communication and Consent Program
Nichole M. Scaglione, Ph.D., University of Florida

Dr. Nichole Scaglione received an FY19 Prevention Research to Reduce Sexual Assault and/or Understand Adjustment Disorders (PSAAD) Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award. Dr. Scaglione’s study will assess the feasibility and acceptability of the Sexual Communication and Consent (SCC) sexual assault prevention program for freshman cadets and develop supplemental SCC program content for first-class U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) cadets targeting leadership values and behaviors. Military sexual assault victimization impacts both individual and overall force readiness through lowered morale, trust, and workplace productivity.  Dr. Scaglione is implementing a mixed-methods approach to understand how the SCC program is perceived by cadets, and show the usefulness of the SCC as it currently exists.  In addition, Dr. Scaglione’s research will provide additional components to be incorporated into a refresher course for upper-class cadets as they prepare to take their first posts as Air Force Officers and leaders. This study is currently ongoing.

 

 

Dr. Cristóbal Berry-Cabán
Dr. Cristóbal Berry-Cabán

Preventing Sexual Violence Toward Male Victims Through Targeting Hazing Behavior
Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán, Ph.D., The Geneva Foundation

Dr. Cristóbal Berry-Cabán received an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award to develop a complete framework for addressing hazing and its connection to sexual victimization. Dr. Berry-Cabán and his research team will collect descriptive data to inform the development of a culturally adapted Hazing Prevention Framework for the Military (HPF-M) that addresses the etiology of hazing among Army Service Members. Dr. Berry-Cabán’s research seeks to address the connection between hazing and sexual assault in groups and/or situations where hazing could occur, thus reducing sexual violence. The research team expects modifications to the HPF-M to be ongoing and iterative.  This study is currently in the initial preparation stages. 

 

 

Dr. Amy M. Slep
Dr. Amy M. Slep

Unlocking What Makes Military Behavioral Health Interventions Work, Stumble, or Fade Away: Understanding Barriers and Facilitators That Can Be Applied to Sexual Assault Prevention
Amy M. Slep, Ph.D., New York University

With an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award, Dr. Amy Slep seeks to identify and provide a basis from which policymakers can choose and adapt evidence-based prevention interventions (EBIs) to prevent sexual assault and harassment. Despite efforts among military services to prevent sexual assault and harassment, incidences remain high. Dr. Slep and her research team will be using a two-phase, mixed-methods approach to develop and test a military-specific ecological model of implementation and sustainment of EBIs. The results of this study will inform the development of clear guidelines and systems to implement and sustain effective prevention programs. This study is currently ongoing.

 

 

Dr. Emily Rothman
Dr. Emily Rothman

Dr. Casey Taft
Dr. Casey Taft

Strength at Home Couples Program: Examining Sexual Aggression
Emily F. Rothman, Sc.D., and Casey Taft, PhD, Boston University Medical Campus

Dr. Emily Rothman and Dr. Casey Taft received an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award to conduct a secondary analysis of an implementation efficacy data collected from couples who participated in a trauma-informed preventive intervention, named Strength at Home-Couples (SAH-C). SAH-C uses a social information processing model and cognitive behavioral strategies to prevent relationship conflict by improving interpretation and response to communication between intimate partners.  The study will examine the effects of SAH-C on sexual aggression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior in military couples. This study will determine whether SAH-C, a program currently in use to improve communication, is also effective in reducing violence in the military. The study team recently completed the initial setup period, and the study is ongoing.

 

 

Dr. John H. Riley
Dr. John H. Riley

EAAA at USAFA: Intervention with the Fourth Degree Classes of Cadets
John H. Riley, Ph.D., United States Air Force Academy

With an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award, Dr. John Riley seeks to support the implementation of the Enhanced Access, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) sexual assault resistance program at the USAFA to better equip freshman female cadets in assessing and evading situations that may lead to sexual assault. Through early data gathered from a pilot study at USAFA, Dr. Riley showed that subjects implemented knowledge learned in the program to stop potentially dangerous assault situations.  The study plans to request incoming cadets to complete a 12-hour EAAA program, followed by a series of questionnaires. Dr. Riley’s end goal is to reduce the number of sexual assaults at USAFA by increasing not only cadets’ ability to detect risk of sexual assault, but their ability to defend themselves if confronted with a sexual assault situation. This study is currently ongoing.

 

 

Dr. Justin K. Benzer
Dr. Justin K. Benzer

Optimizing Human Resources to Address Battalion-Level Factors That May Impede or Support Implementation of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Prevention Programs
Justin K. Benzer, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

With an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award, Dr. Justin Benzer seeks to evaluate how to best improve knowledge and skills needed by Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) personnel at the Installation level, Garrison level, and Battalion level. The research team will interview SHARP personnel to determine existing gaps in knowledge and skills. Investigators will develop training modules designed to complement newly developed training at the U.S. Army SHARP Academy. Results from this study will help SHARP programs to identify factors that may impede or support the application of evidence-based sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention interventions. This study is ongoing.

 

 

Dr. Belinda F. Hernandez
Dr. Belinda F. Hernandez

Building a Better Workplace: A Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program for Active Duty Service Members
Belinda F. Hernandez, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Dr. Belinda Hernandez received an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award to develop and test the usability of an online sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention program named Building a Better Workplace (BBW) 2.0.  Investigators will use Intervention Mapping, a systematic protocol for developing health promotion and implementation interventions, to develop a multi-level, online-accessible sexual harassment and assault prevention program. The intervention will increase participants’ knowledge and skills for building and maintaining healthy relationships.  Dr. Hernandez expects BBW 2.0 to decrease the incidence of sexual assaults among Service Members and have a long-term impact on their health, well-being, mission readiness, and productivity. The study is ongoing.

 

 

 

Dr. Lindsay M. Orchowski
Dr. Lindsay M. Orchowski

Personalized Web-Based Sexual Assault Prevention for Service Members
Lindsay M. Orchowski, Ph.D., Rhode Island Hospital

With an FY19 PSAAD Investigator-Initiated Focused Research Award, Dr. Lindsay Orchowski seeks to adapt the computerized Alcohol and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) program for administration among Service Members with special attention to the role of alcohol in sexual assault and bystander intervention. A computerized prevention program that can be easily accessed online and engages Service Members in a tailored skills-based learning experience represents an innovative strategy for offering sexual assault prevention to Service Members. Dr. Orchowski and her research team plan to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and satisfaction of the ASAP program. Dr. Orchowski’s ultimate goal is to reduce sexual assault among Service Members while promoting overall well-being of those who serve our country.  The study is ongoing.

 

 


*Projects were solicited under the FY11 DMRDP and FY14 and 19 PHTBIRP.

 

Links:

Public and Technical Abstracts: Sexual Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Warfighters in Army STARRS

Public and Technical Abstracts: Sexual Assault Prevention for Men in the Military

Public and Technical Abstracts: Reducing Sexual Assault at the U.S. Air Force Academy: Adaptation, Implementation, and Evaluation of the Sexual Communication and Consent Program

Public and Technical Abstracts: Preventing Sexual Violence Toward Male Victims Through Targeting Hazing Behavior

Public and Technical Abstracts: Unlocking What Makes Military Behavioral Health Interventions Work, Stumble, or Fade Away: Understanding Barriers and Facilitators That Can Be Applied to Sexual Assault Prevention

Public and Technical Abstracts: Strength at Home Couples Program: Examining Sexual Aggression

Public and Technical Abstracts: EAAA at USAFA: Intervention with the Fourth Degree Classes of Cadets

Public and Technical Abstracts: Optimizing Human Resources to Address Battalion-Level Factors That May Impede or Support Implementation of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Prevention Programs

Public and Technical Abstracts: Building a Better Workplace: A Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program for Active Duty Service Members

Public and Technical Abstracts: Personalized Web-Based Sexual Assault Prevention for Service Members

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Last updated Tuesday, April 27, 2021