Testing the Continuum of Harm: the Role of Generlized Harassment and Leader Tolerance for Sexual Harassment in Predicting Survivor Outcomes

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University of Alabama Libraries

At the time, high-profile events such as the Navy Tailhook Scandal in 1993, the Air Force Academy scandal in Colorado in 2003, and the scandals at West Point and the Naval Academy in 2013 shocked the nation. Despite decades of media and research attention to the topic of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. military, violent crimes, such as the murder of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen by a fellow solder at the Army base in Fort Hood in Texas in 2020, have not stopped. While not all incidents of sexual harassment are violent, the DoD’s continuum of harm model is used widely in research and practice to depict how seemingly innocent sex-related behaviors or “jokes” can create environments in which these behaviors escalate to violent crimes. To reduce the extent of harm to survivors’ mental health and job attitudes, it is critical to identify risk factors beyond sexual harassment that may belong on the continuum of harm. In this dissertation I explore two potential risk factors: 1) experiencing generalized (nonsexual) abuse, and 2) having leadership that is tolerant of sexual harassment. Regression-based analyses reveal that both generalized harassment and leader tolerance for sexual harassment across all levels of leadership are important risk factors that have adverse effects on survivors’ mental health and job attitudes, and that these variables interact to significantly exacerbate the effects of generalized harassment on survivors’ PTSD symptomology. These results provide empirical support for incorporating these risk factors in the DoD’s sexual harassment and assault prevention efforts.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
generalized harassment, Military, sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace abuse, workplace mistreatment