Damning evidence from whistleblowers has revealed continuing sexual abuse and a "culture of institutional misogyny" within the British armed forces, according to a parliamentary committee.
The parliament's Defense Sub-Committee on Thursday published whistle-blower evidence from a team delivering clinical and occupational healthcare and advice to service personnel and their commands, from across the three armed services.
The evidence aims to “provide the Committee with an indication of both the nature and impact of sexual abuse that continues to be perpetrated against women in our armed forces.”
It concludes that “a significant proportion of Servicewomen experience unwanted sexual behavior in Service” and “many are reluctant to report or seek help."
Taken together, the personal accounts demonstrate the British military exhibits “a wider culture of institutional misogyny” despite repeated promises of reform, according to the committee’s chair, Sarah Atherton MP.
One servicewoman reported rape on a base but was told her attacker would remain with his elite unit, according to written submissions provided to the committee. Her story is one of eight cases revealing continuing rape and sexual abuse in the military.
Another was said to have been groped and forcibly kissed by a male colleague at a Christmas party before allegedly being told by her chain of command that she should “understand things get a little out of hand”.
A case study described a “young servicewoman in training (who) awoke in her room on base to find a male member of training staff smelling her underwear; previously, she’d woken up to find him watching her sleeping."
It added, “She describes on another occasion him holding her against a wall and telling her that her real reason to join the service was to ‘get the leg over as much as possible’.”
Few of the case studies involved women reporting incidents through an official complaints process, but one who did end up leaving the service with mental health issues while her alleged abusers “continue to serve and thrive”.
Several officers are found to have committed sexual offenses, bullying and harassment.
MP Atherton said the submissions reinforce the group’s view that cases of rape and sexual assault within the service should be handled by civilian courts. The move was first proposed after a 2021 parliamentary report into the experiences of servicewomen but the MoD rejected the recommendation.
The case studies paint a damning picture of progress made to address failures in protecting servicewomen which were first laid bare by the 2021 report.
Atherton previously chaired a landmark inquiry into women in the armed forces, which concluded in 2021 that two-thirds of serving women had suffered bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination during their careers.
The latest testimonies were submitted following that inquiry and, Atherton concluded, they amounted to “damning evidence” showing that “serious problems persist”.
Women make up 11.4 percent of the British military and since 2016 no role in the military is closed to women.