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The new military sexual assault survey: Will it be accurate?

Once again, the Rand Corp., a global research group retained by the Pentagon to conduct a massive survey on sexual assault within the military, features in one of our blog posts. We referenced the organization and the ire of some participants concerning the wording and tone of some of the survey questions in our November 14 blog entry.

As we noted therein, some respondents stated that they felt re-victimized by the intrusive nature of certain questions.

A RAND spokesperson says that all the survey responses have now been received, with the next step being to evaluate and subsequently release them to the public.

According to a recent media article discussing the sexual assault survey, that release could result in sharply divided camps and a firestorm of controversy that far exceeds what already exists relating to the tone of some survey questions.

Most notably, some critics of the study say that its anonymous nature and the greatly expanded pool of respondents who participated in it could well skew its findings, reflecting a rate of sexual assault within the military that is inaccurate and highly inflated.

Their reasoning: Persons who have not been assault victims will be largely unmotivated to complete the anonymous survey, while those who are victims -- and persons who are interested in the subject -- likely will respond. As noted by the above-cited article, survey critics say that “the sample is skewed with an overrepresentation of victims,” which becomes even more problematic owing to its large respondent pool.

Some critics flatly question the accuracy of past military findings as well, noting that the military sexual assault rate against women has been reported as being as much as 12 times higher than is the case in the civilian world. They say that this is simply illogical and not reflective of assault rates that have been actually falling across the country in recent years.

We will of course keep readers updated on the survey as material developments concerning it emerge. The results will almost certainly make an outsized impression both on Capitol Hill and inside the Pentagon.

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