Two out of three female military personnel in the United Kingdom have experienced some form of abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, or discrimination throughout their careers, a new report by the UK Parliament Defence Committee revealed on Sunday.
The report involved at least 4,100 female respondents who were either on active military duty or veterans. The report asserted that the probe is “one of the most important” in history.
Around 64 percent of veteran respondents and 58 percent of active-duty servicewomen revealed past experience of being bullied, harassed, or experiencing discrimination (referred to by the report as BHD), sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape.
A majority of respondents expressed that they felt the military did not do enough to address these issues, even if conditions within the force are currently “better than they once were.”
These testimonies, given confidentially, included accounts of sexual assault through drugs, gang rape, exploitation of young servicewomen, and bullying when women refused sexual advances.
‘Changes Must Be Made’
“It is difficult not to be moved by the stories of trauma, both emotional and physical, suffered by women at the hands of their colleagues,” Chair of the Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces and female veteran, Sarah Atherton MP, said.
“A woman raped in the military often then has to live and work with the accused perpetrator, with fears that speaking out would damage her career prospects. Our recommendations attempt to mitigate this and ask the Ministry of Defence to tackle the issue of criminal behavior head-on.”
Atherton believes that allegations of serious sexual offense should not be tried in a Court Martial, as conviction rates within the system are far lower than that of the civilian justice system.
This paints a picture that “military women are being denied justice,” she said.
“The military has come a long way in recent years,” she added. “However, it is clear to us that the military is, in many ways, a man’s world.”
Atherton asserted that the British military service is “one of the most capable and formidable fighting forces in the world, priding itself on its ability to modernize,” and that changes must be made in light of these issues.