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Ending harassment of women Veterans in VA facilities

July 3, 2019

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Photo for illustrative purposes only. (Photo: ©iStock/Zinkevych)

Studies by the VA Women’s Health Research Network have shown that women Veterans are often subject to harassment at VA facilities. Recent research found that one in four women Veterans face inappropriate or unwanted comments or behaviors by male Veterans when they come to VA for care. Most harassment (61%) involved catcalls, stares, and/or sexual or derogatory comments. Another 16% involved male Veterans questioning or denigrating women’s Veteran status or their right to access VA care, while 5% reported stalking, threats, or unwanted physical contact. Women Veterans who reported harassment were less likely to feel welcome at VA, more likely to feel unsafe at VA, and more likely to delay or miss care.

To address this serious issue, VA in 2017 launched a national campaign to end harassment at VA medical centers. Anti-harassment posters and staff training are being disseminated to every VA facility. Many VAs have also developed local innovations, such as female volunteers to walk women Veterans to their appointments. These efforts have already begun improving Veterans’ lives through improved national awareness and VA policy action.

The VA Women’s Health Research Network is tracking progress (89% of women Veterans report feeling safe at VA, and 57% can tell VA is working to address harassment) and has launched a new initiative to accelerate local culture change initiatives. New research is engaging national experts to develop evidence-based strategies to end gender-based harassment.

Principal investigator: Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D, M.S.P.H.; Ruth Klap, Ph.D.; VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Selected publications:

Gender differences in Veterans’ perceptions of harassment on Veterans Health Administration grounds. Dyer KE, Potter SJ, Hamilton AB, Luger TM, Berman AA, Yano EM, Klap R. Women’s Health Issues. 2019 June 25;29 Suppl 1:S83-S93.

Prevalence of stranger harassment of women Veterans at Veterans Affairs medical centers and impacts on delayed and missed care. Klap R, Darling JE, Hamilton AB, Rose DE, Dyer K, Canelo I, Haskell S, Yano EM. Women’s Health Issues. 2019 March-April;29(2):107-115.


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