United Kingdom

MoD shame as 1 in 7 women in armed forces subjected to sexual harassment

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The shocking news comes as Armed Forces Week comes to a conclusion, designed to celebrate the best of the military and raise awareness. The MoD has since launched new initiatives to ensure a high level of satisfaction in service life as well as trying to bring about equality and diversity in the forces.

With 14 percent of all servicewomen being victims of sexual harassment in their positions, this week offers an opportunity to discuss the realities of service life, particularly for women.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Simon Ellis, a partner in the Military Team at Hugh James Solicitors explains the various types of incidents suffered by female military personnel.

He said: “There is under-reporting but what we see is everything from inappropriate texting to serious sexual assault.

“The under-reporting also reflects the general reluctance we often see from military personnel to come forward when they are facing issues; I often see this with those suffering injuries such as noise-induced hearing loss, cold injury and PTSD.”

One in seven female military personnel have been subjected to sexual harassment (Image: Getty)

Victims

Victims are mostly female with male suspects (Image: Getty Stock)

The lawyer representing military personnel across a host of services continued: “If there is a reluctance and stigma to coming forward after being injured, this is probably amplified for those in the military who are victims of sexual abuse, particularly for women in a very male-dominated field.

“There is clearly a high level of dissatisfaction among women serving in the armed forces, and the fact that this comes to light through a survey rather than day-to-day reporting of harassment is very telling.

“Very few of those who filled in the survey said they would be willing to make a complaint – due, perhaps to the cultural realities of the armed forces.”

The lawyer also highlighted the problem exists across the board throughout all sectors of the armed forces, with no particular unit standing out above another.

However, rather worryingly, Mr Ellis stated the majority of cases exist within the lower ranks of the military.

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Simon Ellis

Simon Ellis represents a variety of military personnel with grievances (Image: Hugh James Solicitors)

Victims

Victims have been reported across all services, with both sexes reporting (Image: Crown Copyright)

A report by the Centre for Military Justice confirmed the findings.

A statement by the organisation said: “Sexual violence in the United Kingdom remains prevalent.

“The Armed Forces are no exception, but particular and very powerful challenges arise when attempting to address sexual violence in that context.”

The organisation also revealed alarming statistics regarding sexual harassment and abuse within the military.

It stated the overwhelming number of suspects involved in the acts are male, with the vast majority of victims being female, although, there are cases of same-sex harassment.

Although the phenomenon is across the military sector, the Army has witnessed the vast majority of both victims and suspects.

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Victim

Many blame poor investigation into allegations for low prosecution figures (Image: Getty Stocl)

Cases are usually heard by the Service Police in the UK, this is important because the strongest argument that favours the need to retain a Service Police force for the armed forces at all is so that it can be taken on overseas operations when service people deploy.

But this evidence shows that they are investigating offences in the UK, far more than offences abroad.

Of the 48 rape cases that got to court-martial in 2017, just 2 resulted in a conviction. This is a conviction rate of 4 percent.

In 2018, the number of rape cases that got to court-martial fell dramatically, to around ten, resulting in just 3 convictions.

The organisation places the blame for such poor results down on poor investigation.

It states: “These figures indicate that there is something very badly wrong with the way in which the armed forces investigate and prosecute sexual crime.

“The source of the problem is likely to be manifold: women are already a very significant minority in an environment where sexual harassment continues and is a serious and pressing problem – this creates an environment where attitudes towards women and their bodies can become at best disrespectful and at worst predatory. “

Navy

The Centre for Military Justice says the Navy suffers the worst numbers of sexual harassment cases (Image: Crown Copyright)

The figures of how many people are suffering from sexual harassment has also been disputed, with another report suggesting two-thirds of women in the army said that parts of the military had a problem with sexual harassment and 61 percent of female Navy colleagues considered it widespread.

In both the army and the Royal Air Force, over one-third of women had received unwelcome comments about their appearance, body or sexual activities.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We publish these statistics so that we can continue to evaluate and strengthen our measures designed to improve the experience for serving personnel.

“We are clear that all forms of unacceptable behaviour, including sexual harassment, have no place in our Armed Forces and anyone convicted of a sexual offence will be discharged.

“We are improving reporting mechanisms for sexual offences so personnel feel safe in raising issues and confident allegations will be acted on, and have a dedicated 24/7 bullying, harassment and discrimination hotline.”

If you have been affected by this story, help is available via the MoD BHD Hotline – Just CLICK HERE

For more stories like this, follow Express.co.uk Defence and Security Correspondent James Lee on Twitter @JamesLee_DE


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