3 March 2021

Sexual Assault Prevention in the Military

Researcher to Watch: Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán, PhD

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are persistent challenges for the military. Geneva researcher Cristóbal S. Berry-Cabán, PhD is a senior scientist at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, NC studying an innovative approach to preventing sexual aggression among young men in the military.

Dr. Berry-Cabán is a lead investigator of a multi-phase, $2.7 million study called ProHealth that began in 2017, to create a program that addresses sexual assault and high-risk alcohol use on military installations. The research is a collaboration between Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center, Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The project provides data concerning dating and sexual interactions that occur on Fort Bragg, in addition to piloting a sexual assault prevention program through the use of social norms and bystander intervention concepts. Investigators hope to use data and feedback to help reduce rates of sexual assault in the military by providing a sexual assault prevention program tailored to at-risk male soldiers that can be disseminated across military posts. Dr. Berry-Cabán and the ProHealth team are conducting a clinical trial that allows the team to measure the effectiveness of the sexual assault prevention pilot program.

In January 2020, Dr. Berry-Cabán first-authored an article published in Military Medicine titled Conceptualizations of Hooking Up Among Male Soldiers: A Qualitative Analysis which examined the hookup behavior among male soldiers. This behavior has been widely studied in college populations, but not among the military population until this point.

It is well documented that sexual assault in the Army carries a significant threat to the readiness of the military and there is still a need to better understand how those at risk behave in risky social situations in order to reduce the likelihood of such occurrences.

Dr. Berry-Cabán noted that the “success of this project is due to the excellent support provided by the staff that work with him on-site. Their perseverance and dedication to the project have been paramount.”

He also commented that despite numerous restraints placed on data collection due to COVID-19, “the last year has been challenging but I think we have come up with excellent solutions that allowed to project to continue despite the pandemic.”

Funding for the research was provided by the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.


Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Researcher to Watch- Berry