Sexual Abuse in the British Armed Forces

Posted on: 3 mins read
Kate Hall

Solicitor Graduate, Abuse

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Did you know that the conviction rate of rape cases in British Military Courts is 5-6 times lower than in Civilian Courts?

Statistics from The Telegraph earlier this year revealed that only 29% of the 59 military personnel who were being tried for sexual offences in 2019 ended up being convicted. This is compared to 65% of the 7,742 personnel who were tried for the same offences in the same year before the Criminal Justice System. 

Ministers have been pressured to ban the use of Military Courts where there are allegations of sexual abuse, after several reports that cases were repeatedly dealt with incompetently.

If you’ve experienced abuse or harassment in the British armed forces, it needs to be treated with respect and handled seriously. Please don’t suffer in silence because you’re worried about not being listened to.

We’re disappointed to see these statistics, as we believe all allegations of sexual abuse must be investigated and dealt with appropriately. And it doesn’t seem like this can be done when the case is tried in the Military Courts.

Our Abuse Solicitors are just a phone call away if you’d like confidential advice and support. Ask about Legal Aid or if we can deal with your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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How Common is Abuse in the Military?

The circumstances of abuse within the military are often unique and more complex. It can commonly take the form of initiation ceremonies. For example, the RAF have recently begun an investigation into the sexual assault of an airman after a video emerged of his ‘initiation’, where he was stripped of his clothing and held down and assaulted by his fellow troops.

Abuse in the military can also happen on an individual level, behind closed doors. Women serving in the armed forces in particular have reported cases of rape and sexual assault from both fellow troops and senior ranking men. It can leave victims with severe mental health problems and often causes them to leave the armed forces.

A Sexual Harassment Survey by the Army in 2018 found ‘targeted sexualised behaviours’ towards women, who made up 18% of respondents. It reported that:

  • 12% of the women had been a victim of intentional sexual touching
  • 7% had been a victim of attempted sexual assault
  • 5% had been a victim of serious sexual assault
  • 3% had been the victim of rape

Of those who came forward about their abuse to make a formal complaint, three-quarters said they’d suffered negative consequences as a result, and 9 out of 10 of the victims considered leaving the army.

This sadly shows why so many victims are reluctant to come forward about their abuse, as it can leave them feeling as though they have to choose between a career they love and their wellbeing and safety. This should never be an ultimatum.

Director of the Centre of Military Justice, Emma Norton, told The Telegraph that some of the victims she’d represented said that “they would never report a sexual assault to the military police; and would advise against any colleague who is thinking of doing so.”

This means that not only are victims hesitant to report their abuse, but in many cases, they are actively encouraged not to.

Support from an Abuse Solicitor

We understand how difficult it can be to come forward and talk about the abuse you’ve suffered, and we appreciate that any kind of abuse causes a serious psychological impact. This is often worse in circumstances where your abuser was in a position of trust or power, as they often are in the Military.

Claims for abuse in the military are usually brought against the Ministry of Defence (MoD), as in the majority of cases, they’re against the employer of the person who abused you. This means that the Ministry of Defence, as the employer, would be responsible for the abuse that you’ve suffered.

If you have any questions about making a claim for military abuse, please contact our Abuse Team. We have supported many victims to get the compensation they need to rebuild their lives and are experienced in dealing with claims of sexual abuse.

Everything you tell us will be handled with complete confidence. If you decide to take legal action, we can look at handling your case on a No Win, No Fee basis or you might be entitled to Legal Aid – ask us for details.

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