Nurse In The Military - Pros & Cons - Sexual Assault

Specialties Government



I'm an RN and I'll finish my BSN this December; I haven't worked as an RN yet. I've been seriously considering joining the Air Force. It seems like a great opportunity plus (at least in the beginning) I can get rid of student loans and ensure a quick way to continue my education beyond my BSN with the GI Bill. However, recent revelations regarding sexual harassment and assault have me justifiably CONCERNED! I've been married for more than 7 years and I have no interest in put myself, my husband, my career, or my future at risk. Nevertheless, according to recent serious documentaries and many serious sources, sexual harassment and sexual assault happen VERY frequently in the military. For instance, according to the Department of Defense, "sexual assault occurred an average of more than 70 per day in the United States military during 2012". Also, according to NY Daily News, in 2011 the Pentagon argued that rape and sexual assault are considered to be an "occupational hazard" in the military. I'm aware of the fact that I shouldn't put myself under any kind of risk. For example, avoid drinking (in fact I don't drink) and/or being alone with male coworkers. A terrible situation like this could happen in the civilian world too, but one never expects this to happen while you are serving your country. Thus, I'd be very thankful to know if any of you have (or even know about someone else who has) experienced sexual assault in the military. Please let me know of your experience as an RN in the military, the pros and cons, and of course if sexual harassment or sexual assault has ever been an issue for you.




Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Moved to our Government / Military Nursing forum for advice from our military members.

Oh boy. Where to begin. Sexual assault and harrassment is grossly under-reported. I have experienced sexual assault & harrassment and seen it occur multiple times. Nothing terribly violent but still otherwise annoying. I'd like to think that it is something that happens mostly in the enlisted ranks but I think that would be very naive. Most times it's just the taunts and inappropriate comments. Men teasing the lesser masculine men, calling them princess and fairy. The comments to me weren't as offensive but the constant proposals for sex were very irritating. There's a lot of grooming behaviors. A lewd joke here, an unwelcomed shoulder rub there... all to test out your tolerance for their behavior. There's an Army base nearby and I've seen the way men force themselves onto unknowing civilian girls (and sometimes girls in their unit too). If you're a strong woman who is aware of the risks, I'd say you'll be okay. Know what you're okay with and not okay with. Set firm limits. And don't be afraid to call someone out on their unwelcomed behavior. If you really need the approval of your peers and will do anything to get it, watch out. If you're prone to over drinking and doing things you'll regret, or worse, can't remember: Watch out. Sexual predators pick people who are vulnerable and not willing to confess. As with every organization, it all depends on your command. Some will have zero tolerance and not allow those behaviors. Some will turn a blind eye and blame the victim. And everything in between.

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

There are predators everywhere, not only in the military. I am a SANE nurse and an Army nurse, and I have seen many cases of alleged sexual assault. I haven't experienced it personally, knock on wood, but I am deployed and my weapon never leaves my side. :)

A lot of the alleged assaults I've encountered occur in the barracks or at parties where there is far too much alcohol. I cannot stress enough how much alcohol is a factor in so many cases. Not that I'm blaming the brew, mind you, but it's a HUGE factor. For an officer who doesn't live in the barracks and isn't partying down with a bunch of folks who are drunk, you'd probably be okay. No guarantees, of course ... like I said, predators are everywhere, not just in the military.

Specializes in PACU, ER, Military, Critical CARE, Psych.

I came into Navy nursing over a year ago. Just last week I received required sexual assault training. In my work environment I do not feel concerned with this. I work on the cardiac unit in my hospital, I work a 12 hour shift, side by side with other military and civilian nurses. I would be doing the same thing in the civilian world. I would say that it seems there is higher risk on ships/closed spaces and personally I know more enlisted people than officers that have had issues.

Navy nurses generally will not see ship life unless they apply after being at least 6 years in. If you wanted to come in for a 4-6 year contract you would be in hospitals most likely. Also currently with deployments there is a... wait list (for lack of better words), people put their names in to request deployments.

At training I never experienced sexual harassment.

I would not let this deter you from joining. If you feel called to serve we would be happy to have you. This issue now being in the media will only aid in people's awareness and abilities to prevent bad things from happening.

Hi Adgesmeraldiamond,

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question, I really appreciate it!!!:yes: From what you said, it seems like most people would encounter sexual harassment in the military at one time or another, but it’s up to them to set clear limits and don’t become an “easy target” for sexual predators. It’s sad that situations like this could happen, but at the same time I’m glad that the news outlets are informing the public of the problem.

Thank you,


Hi LunahRN,

I’m so thankful you took the time to write a comment, especially because you’re a SANE nurse. I truly hope that you don’t have any problems now that you are out of the country. Thanks for your advice; my husband always said that it’s safer and nicer to live off base (he was in the Air Force a long time ago), I don’t have a base of reference (I’m originally from another country and my family has nothing to do with the military). Regarding alcohol consumption, I don’t drink so I guess that is something I don’t have to worry too much about.

I’m going to start reading your blog…!

Thank you,


Hi Sw88tpea,

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my concerns. I’m glad you feel safe where you work. I’d love to work in a cardiac unit!

I guess the media want people to become aware of the dangers, and I’m thankful for what they are doing. It’s necessary to let people know of this shameful situation, maybe this way it could be better controlled.

Thank you,


Specializes in ED.

I was in the Army 1993-1997 active duty and yes, I believed I was raped/sexually assaulted. Normally someone does not get drunk enough off of two beers to be walked back to a barracks aided by a male to then pass out and not recollect that same male walking out of my room with his shoes in hand. The latter was reported by another person down the hall, to which I was repremanded and recieved an Article 15. I was young, very nieve, and put myself into too many risky situations, and wished I had someone higher up who would have told me I should have been tested or should have turned him in.

I also have had other females report things to me, not quite to the extent I experienced. I am now a nurse in the VA system and I love working with these guys. I have also done some SANE nursing, and look forward to maybe doing that again in the future (our ER where I am now is just too small, not enough cases to put together a program so we would ship them out if they come in).

Would I do it over again, yes every time. I have gained so many advantages from just joining the military that the issues I experienced pale in comparison. I was able to get through my ADN without owing anything, it gave me a much stronger work ethic, allowed me to "grow up" so to speak, and it showed me how strong I can be.

Specializes in military nursing.

I worked as a civilian RN for 2 1/2 years before commissioning into the Navy. I actually feel that my risk of being sexually assaulted has gone DOWN since being in the military. I highly respect those I work with (military and civilian, officers and enlisted) and do not put myself in a situation that may compromise my position or career in the Navy. I do feel there may be a higher risk when deployed/sea duty versus being on shore duty. I also think that there have been a lot of reports on military sexual assault cases, yet where are all of the statistics on sexual assault in the civilian workplace? My husband is also in the Navy and we feel comfortable and safe in this profession. The largest thing to remember is SITUATIONAL AWARENESS and not to put yourself in a compromising situation (i.e. go with someone else, watch out for others, if you feel uncomfortable not to remain silent, go up your chain of command). There are many things to consider when deciding to commission into the military and this is something to discuss with your family and take time to decide if it is right for you. The best of luck and welcome to the world of nursing in DEC. :)

DJ I can completely understand your concern as all the other commenters who have given comments. I too am an RN and a USAF Vet 1979-1984 in Weapons Maintenance Officer. I was fresh out of San Diego State in 1979 and wanted to serve my country as my uncles had. I was among the first wave of women entering a male dominated profession: flightline.

I too was sexually harassed not by enlisted, but by the Lt. Col. of my Squadron. I was silent for 32 years after reporting the incident to the my superiors, up to the Wing Cmdr. And like you, I began hearing the women's stories and experiences in the military. It brought back the flood of emotions and trauma that I had sequestered for many years. I left his command, but his comments to my new commander were devastating. I was an embarrassment to the uniform, I was lower than dirt, I had the IQ of Zero. The Lt. Col. retired, but he did considerable damage. I too went through PTSD. I didn't have other women I could turn to for advice and counseling. There were no Military Rape organizations and clinics. I didn't have role models. I believe there were more women like me at my time. We just didn't know where to turn, who to talk to without retribution. We were surviving. I left the AF, returned to school and nursing.

This experience is not meant to scare you and those commented before me don't want the same. The reality is that the world is not safe. We take our chances in life. The same is true in nursing. Ultimately it is your decision when you weigh all the information on the table. Now there are organizations fighting for those abused, harassed, and assaulted. No woman or man is alone in this experience.

There are many ways to serve your country. JFK said it best: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. I know nurses and professors who served in the Peace Corps, who work at Indian Health Services (Indian reservations are in need of help and assistance), who work at underprivileged clinics throughout the country and world. Ultimately we represent our country in whatever we do. Would I serve my country again? Yes, despite my experience. I also learned that no one takes me down except myself. I accomplished a lot for an officer he deemed an embarrassment: USAF Capt., RN, and now future Archaeologist. My prayers and thoughts to you. You are not alone...remember that, not even as a nurse!

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