British Military Has A Sexual Abuse Problem, 8 Victims Heard

One of the victims is a junior servicewoman in the British military who says she was forced to leave the military whereas her abuser was protected. 

On Thursday, a whistleblower testimonial statement revealed 8 victims of rape and sexual assault on women within the United Kingdom’s military. The report which was collected by medical teams and sent to a Commons defence committee, brings to light the continuing sexual abuse within the military.

These personal accounts, when looked at as a whole, raise accusations at the British military for incubating a “culture of institutional misogyny” despite promising to change for the better. The aforementioned junior servicewoman was raped on base by someone she was in a casual relationship with. She was hesitant to report at first out of fear of a counter-charge.

When the servicewoman approached a military GP (general practitioner), she was advised to choose better partners in the future. The second doctor she saw managed to convince her to report the incident. However, the report led to no results. The senior officers, in consultation with the second doctor, decided to keep the sexual abuser in place for the sake of his career and the “elite unit” he served.

The servicewoman, on the other hand, was moved across the country and out of her elite unit against her will. She had to wait for more than a year to receive any mental health treatment. And when the mental health treatment arrived, she was medically discharged from the armed forces against her will.

The case of this junior servicewoman is the most serious of the 8 cases compiled by the parliamentary committee. However, despite their lessened seriousness, the remaining 7 cases include sexual assault and abuse, all within the past 2 years. 

Another servicewoman said she was “groped, forcibly kissed, and exposed” by one of her male colleagues at a unit Christmas party. Her complaints were also ignored by her superiors as “It was Christmas, and a party” and she should understand how “things get a little out of hand”.

Another servicewoman was harassed by a male colleague who trespassed into her room on base when she was asleep. He then held her up against a wall and claimed she only joined the armed forces to have sexual relations with the men there. When she reported this to her senior trainer, she was told her case was too weak, and that her training would be “cut short” while the allegations were investigated. She completed her training but suffered from suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors.

Chair of parliamentary committee overlooking sexual abuses within the British military
Official portrait of Sarah Atherton (Image by: David Woolfall)

A landmark inquiry by MP Sarah Atherton that concluded in 2021 claimed that two-thirds of serving women had suffered bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination during their period of service. Atherton is currently the chair of the parliamentary committee hearing the aforementioned testimonies.

Women make up ~11.4% of the British Military, and no roles in the military are shut off for women since 2016. However, taking in these testimonies that were submitted following the 2021 inquiry, it can be concluded that serious problems within the military still persist.

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