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Bullying and harassment claims continue to rise in the military

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
By all credible accounts bullying and physical violence are rampant in the British army

Despite repeated assurances by military chiefs and political leaders to combat the pernicious culture of bullying in the British armed forces, the official statistics for 2019 make for grim reading.

The 2019 Annual Report of the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF) records 1,184 complaints in total, ranging from career frustration and wage disputes to the altogether more serious category of bullying, harassment and intimidation.

Of the total complaints 25 percent (or 296 cases) belong to the serious category of bullying, harassment and intimidation.

Even more worryingly women and ethnic minority personnel are over-represented amongst the complainants.

In her foreword to the report, the outgoing SCOAF Ombudsman, Nicola Williams, mentions “recurring” issues in terms of “inappropriate behaviors” in the armed forces.

Most observers will treat Williams’ sweeping statement as a breathtaking exercise in understatement.

A July 2019 review into “inappropriate behaviors” in the armed forces by Air Chief Marshal Wigston got much closer to the truth by identifying a range of offensive behaviors and language suffered by minority groups in all three service branches.

Wigston had been commissioned to produce the review by former defense secretary, Gavin Willamson, following a series of high profile cases of inappropriate and unlawful behavior by armed forces personnel, including an alleged sexual assault which led to the arrest of six soldiers.   

One of Wigston’s most fundamental observations was that the “new generation” of service personnel is led by a “pack mentality of white, middle-aged men, especially in positions of influence whose behaviors are shaped by the armed forces of 20 years ago”.

The British military’s persistent problem with bullying and harassment is believed to be one of the reasons it has struggled with recruitment issues in the past three decades.   

Of the three branches of the armed forces the army in particular has an acute recruitment challenge forcing army chiefs to continually lower recruitment standards even to the point of enlisting “illiterates”.



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