BradyBunch12 wrote in a Reddit post with 3.9k upvotes in What's a statistically proven fact that nobody wants to hear?

While deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, American female soldiers were more likely to be raped by their fellow soldier than attacked by the enemy.

Is this really a statistically proven fact?

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    No time frame is specified here. I'm not sure if one is needed. Jul 19, 2016 at 19:14
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    While the difficulty of answering may not be relevant, Reddit is most certainly not "notable". Jul 19, 2016 at 23:07
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    @russell the notability test is "do many people believe the claim", so the source that happens to be cited as an example isn't determinative.
    – user30557
    Jul 20, 2016 at 4:40
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    @RussellSteen Considering it got almost 4000 upvotes, I would class it as being notable.
    – March Ho
    Jul 20, 2016 at 11:25
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    I think it's a reasonable question, but how to define "attacked by the enemy" seems tricky. Is that only people under direct assault? People wounded in such assaults? Those who served in locations that were under attack? Those who served in combat zones? Jul 20, 2016 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


Unclear, but a still considered a serious problem. With the parameters of the statement provided, it is difficult to definitively confirm or refute it. In order to do so we would would need to know the time frames involved (e.g. one year versus the entire campaign) along with what "attacked by the enemy" means. The latter could be resolved through the use of proxies such as combat awards (e.g. Combat Action Badge (CAB), Combat Action Ribbon, etc.), but the award of the CAB for indirect fire (i.e. mortar attacks) means that someone can be attacked by the enemy without directly engaging them in combat. As such, the question itself will likely remain unresolved without more information.

That being said, sexual assault of women deployed to combat zones is considered a serious problem:

Deployed women exposed to combat-like experiences reported a 20 percent incidence rate of sexual harassment and a 4 percent rate of sexual assault during the three-year follow-up period after the baseline questionnaire.


Rates of sexual harassment and assault varied by branch of service. For example, the rate of sexual harassment for women in the Air Force and Navy was the lowest at 5.8 percent. That rate in the Army was 10.3 percent, with the Marines having the highest at 13.3 percent.

Female Marines also reported the highest rate of sexual assault at 6.6 percent, compared to 1.6 percent reported by Air Force women.

And then, of course, there’s the issue that’s received so much attention in the press of late: the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse in the military. While none of the women I spoke with for this story had suffered from military sexual trauma (MST), the armed services’ catch-all term, an estimated 20 percent of all women who use VA health care have been sexually assaulted, abused, or raped during their time in the U.S. military. Civil rights groups that get their stats from independent researchers put the number even higher, at around 30 percent.

Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported -- 73% more than in 2004. The DOD's newest report, released this month, indicates that 2,688 reports were made in 2007, but a recent shift from calendar-year reporting to fiscal-year reporting makes comparisons with data from previous years much more difficult.

The figures reported in the news can be traced back to work done in part by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office who have been producing annual reports on military sexual assault since calendar year 2004.

The quote itself is also remarkably similar to a statement made by Representative Jane Harman:

"A woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq,"

This similarity is noteworthy, but killed by enemy fire is a significantly different bar to meet compared to "attacked by the enemy." If this is the origin of the statement in the question, then it is much easier to to check. As of December 22, 2014 there were 110 female deaths as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, while 143 reports of sexual abuse were made in Iraq for 2008 alone.

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    I would bet good money that the OP's quote is based on a misreading of Harman's quote. Jul 20, 2016 at 13:13
  • @DJClayworth That's what I'm inclined to believe as well.
    – rjzii
    Jul 20, 2016 at 13:25
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    What I'd like to know, is whether a woman's chance of being raped or sexually assaulted is higher in the military than it is in civilian life. My guess is that it's not, or at the very least, the chances are about the same. Both these crimes are extremely common in the population in general.
    – Ernie
    Sep 8, 2016 at 19:29

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