Although the Forces generally welcome servicewomen today, it gravely concerns us that bullying, harassment and discrimination (BHD)—already affecting too many Service personnel—was experienced by nearly 62% of female Service personnel and veterans who completed our survey. These behaviours include sexual assault and other criminal sexual offences. Our inquiry received truly shocking evidence from female Service personnel of bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape they experienced, some of which—even more disturbingly—involved senior officers acting as wrongdoers. The MOD’s representative statistics show that servicewomen were nearly twice as likely to experience BHD in 2020 as servicemen. In 2021, servicewomen were more than ten times as likely as servicemen to experience sexual harassment in the last 12 months.
When things go wrong, they go dramatically wrong. The systems for responding to unacceptable behaviour are failing our service personnel, both male and female. The Service Complaints Ombudsman has never judged the military’s internal complaints system, in which female Service personnel are overrepresented, as ‘efficient, effective and fair’. Nearly 40% of 993 military women told us their experiences of the complaints system were “extremely poor”. Too often, complaints are being brushed under the carpet and there is inadequate support. A lack of faith in the system contributes to 89% of both male and female personnel in the Regular Forces not making a formal complaint about BHD. In our survey, around six in 10 servicewomen and female veterans who had experienced BHD did not report it. The chain of command can be a direct barrier to reporting: a point of failure. There are also serious problems with how the Service Justice System handles criminal sexual offences—most of which (76% in 2020) involve female victims.
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Commons Defence Committee issues report on treatment of women in the UK armed forces
Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life. From the Committee's summary: