Environment during deployments


Jul 21, 2016
Hello all! I am a c/o 2021 applicant/appointee, and I have recently been explaining more about my future plans with my parents as my decision date draws near.

My parents have expressed a lot of concern over the general environments, post-graduation. They read about how about 25% of military women have been sexually assaulted, and that far more than that have reported harassment. Could anyone provide any source of first-person information on if these things truly happen as often as they seem? There is also concern since the Marine Corps has been in the news recently about the scandal.

I understand that in the SAs, there are usually people there to ensure safety within the Corps, but in long and isolated deployments, do these instances happen a lot?

Thank you.
There are stats and stats out there, and data can be presented many ways. The news usually skews toward coverage of the bad or sensational, while overlooking the good.

Take a look at the stats here, from a non-profit resource that's been around awhile, especially the stats for college students:

You can worry about college campuses too.

I spent 26 years on active duty, starting when women made up about 3% of the Armed Forces. It's double digits now, with sexual assault prevention and reporting systems in place, sexual assault victim support and advocacy, and more awareness at all levels.

I was never assaulted, though I had some inane sexual discrimination stuff happen, paralleling what was happening to civilian women going to medical and law school in greater numbers, becoming litigators and surgeons as well as family lawyers and pediatricians, where women used to be expected to go. The vast majority of the men and women with whom I served were fine and decent people. Your fellow officers are cut from the same cloth you are.

The men and women you serve with, whom you struggle with at your SA or commissioning source, become your sisters, brothers, lifelong friends, teammates, classmates, company mates, shipmates/wingmates/battle buddies. You will look out for each other. You are bonded. This, by far, is the prevalent day-to-day state.

No doubt bad things happen. There are people who do bad things, in and out of uniform.

I always felt I had more avenues and protection under the law as a member of the Armed Forces. I would not have stayed a full career if the good did not far, far outweigh the bad. Absolutely no regrets.

I also took steps to minimize my exposure to situations that might lead to a bad situation and increase vulnerability. I never lost control of my faculties by drinking to excess, in any setting, starting in high school. I didn't care I wasn't cool. I never used drugs, or misused prescription or OTC drugs. I took extra care in social situations with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar settings, to guard against date rape drugs. I worked out to be strong and project confidence. I spoke up for myself and set clear boundaries. I took care when running outside in unfamiliar areas at night, or where I parked my car. I also dated a SEAL back in the day who taught me some things. Bless that man. And as I look back, bless my departed parents, who raised me to value my own worth and not let myself be treated without respect.

Deployments are usually exhausting, and your focus is on the mission, whether combat or training.

Any time a new area of the Armed Forces is opened to women, you will find challenges, and yes, harassment, from a few. You put your head down and focus on performance, performance, performance.
I'm a (female) Marine going out on my first deployment sooner rather than later.
The SAPR program (sexual assault prevention and response) exists at pretty much every level in the Marine Corps.
Every battalion (or squadron, in my case, has 2+ uniformed victim's advocates (UVAs) who are there to give annual training to the unit on sexual assault and serve as a sort of unit first responder for victims of sexual assault. There's a lot of resources (medical, counseling, legal) for victims that both do and do not involve the command or law enforcement. I am one of my squadrons UVAs, and it is taken pretty seriously by commands. When we deploy, I will still be available for members of the command and there is still a sort of SAPR command structure whether Marines are on ship or a dirt
Lots of shenanigans occur on deployment, mostly consensual. A dirty secret of the military is that frat does occur between male and female service members (and same sex couples as well), particularly on deployment.

Now the bad news: the SAPR program exists and is so diligently monitored by commands because this has been a problem in the past and continues to be a problem, though much less so.
Sexual harassment will vary by community, service, and specific unit/command climate. I think, personally, it's a little better for officers than for enlisted Marines. As the only female pilot in my unit, I have definitely dealt with sexual harassment. So has every female pilot I know. I think it's worse in aviation and other communities without many women. but that's anecdotal. I have pretty thick skin, and I've put my foot down before about comments that are unacceptable. But, you can only do that so many times, and it's a narrow path to walk.

Frankly, I was unmoved by the Marines United scandal because it was, unfortunately, not a surprise at all. I don't think it was for most Marines, though it went farther than I would have thought.

This is a long, rambling response that's probably not what you want. But the bottom line is I feel safe and comfortable at work and have no qualms about deploying with my unit. I've spent nights with these guys camping out with 14 people in a tipi designed for 8, gotten very drunk with them out in Vegas, and generally spent lots of time with them. Are these things you should be concerned about? Definitely. Are they a reason to not join the Marine Corps? No.
I am a former female Marine and USNA grad. I have a few years on Hurricane and served in ground units and a great deal of time in the Joint environment. I spent probably close to 2 years forward deployed to the Middle East and half that time being the lone female at different Forward Operating Base environments. I rarely had an issue and I don't even consider them issues. My experiences are very similar to Capt MJ and Hurricane that I have never been sexually assaulted or had issues with that. I have encountered sexual harassment, mostly just inappropriate comments and stupidity. I have thick skin and can handle a good deal of stuff. When they crossed the line I had no issue telling them to take a step back or they had crossed that line. Heck as a civilian I have been sexually harassed. Its not unique or isolated to the USMC or military. I have become known as the mentor to the young ladies who get sexually harassed at work. Mostly when they encounter it for the first time they are shocked and not sure what to do. I teach them to stand up for themselves, they have a right to speak up and tackle it head on and that its nothing they did. Usually it takes one encounter of them standing up to someone to end it forever. I hate to say it, but it tends to be older gentlemen who think they can say these things.

I know women who have been sexually assaulted. I hate to say it, but it tends to happen at a higher rate in the enlisted ranks. Doesn't mean that it doesn't happen to officers. I think more women are coming forward and reporting issues which is a great thing.

The Marine United thing didn't surprise me, but it still deeply disappointed me. I hope it brings an awareness and enlightens the entire chain of command to the issues. I still believe strongly in the USMC and all the services that they are great places for women. Bottom line, know where your line is and set it early. Be strong and stand up for yourself and your Sailors and Marines of all genders and if there is something wrong, speak up about it.
I agree with most of what was written above.
My next bit may not be popular, but some context.
I served 24 years, active and reserves.
My wife is still active duty. I won't discuss her background. It's rather unique and includes some "firsts" as a female so I don't want to get her in trouble.
My DD is active duty in a combat arms and will start at a service academy this summer.

I think the 25% sexual assault number is bogus and inflated. Don't get me wrong. ANY sexual assault is wrong and should be severely punished. Sexual assault is bad enough in the civilian world, but in the military... it is a horrible affront to your team member. Anyone convicted of sexual assault in the military should have the book thrown at them.
Yet in our time in the military, my wife and I have never personally known of any. Neither has my daughter. I have also never been in a command climate where sexual assault would have been tolerated. I have to believe that if the 25% number were true one of us would have known of an occurrence.
Now have we heard of inappropriate sexual relationships? Oh yeah. At my command course I was told that I should not pick a female as my driver. Inappropriate relationships was (and probably still is), the leading cause of commanders being releaved for cause. I even knew one female "first" in the Army who had her career cut short when she was caught in a relationship with one of the pilots in her command. Both were married, but not to each other.
So I guess I would say listen to the advice above.
Could anyone provide any source of first-person information on if these things truly happen as often as they seem?
I can confirm along with the others above that the answer is NO.

I understand that in the SAs, there are usually people there to ensure safety within the Corps, but in long and isolated deployments, do these instances happen a lot?
Once again, the answer is NO.

The vast majority of the men and women with whom I served were fine and decent people. Your fellow officers are cut from the same cloth you are.
I second this.

Great to have 3 women from different generations and time served to provide perspective.

Does harassment exist? I am sure it does. Just as it does in every aspect of civilian life. Does it happen with any more frequency? I don't believe so. Nothing you read in the press about this should change your decision to join the military.