Military Must Do More to Tackle Bullying of Female Personnel

Steven Horsley
Author:
Steven Horsley
Head of Military Claims
Date:
24/09/2021

A group of MPs have warned that female service personnel are more likely to face bullying, harassment and discrimination, and that the complaints process is “woefully inadequate”.

Many women who experience bullying, harassment and discrimination at work feel unable to come forward because the complaints system is “woefully inadequate”.

According to the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, a group of MPs, 64% of female veterans and 58% of women who are currently serving have been treated this way at work.

But worryingly, many of these didn’t report the bullying, harassment and discrimination they had faced.

Many of those who did complain said the experience was “extremely poor”, and some alleged that their complaints were being swept “under the rug” by senior officers to “protect their own reputations and careers”.

The handling of sexual assault and harassment claims was said to be particularly poor, which the report said often makes the trauma worse for victims.

Interestingly, nearly 90% of servicewomen and female veterans said they’d recommend the Armed Forces as a career.

But a similar amount said they believe women face more challenges at work than their male colleagues.

"Every woman serving in the Armed Forces should be treated with the respect they deserve and feel confident that any complaints will be dealt with properly. But many are being let down by their commanding officers, with their grievances being ignored or not taken seriously. This can be very damaging for female service personnel, as many of those who’ve been bullied, harassed or assaulted at work must then carry on living and working with those responsible.”

Steven Horsley, Head of Military Claims
Steven Horsley

Civilian Court Should Handle Sexual Assault Complaints

MPs on the committee noted that conviction rates for sexual offences in military courts are four to six times lower than in civilian Courts.

Sarah Atherton MP, chair of the committee, said this “cannot be right” and that military women are “being denied justice”.

The committee has called on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to hand cases of rape and sexual assault over to the civilian Court system, rather than let them be handled in military Courts and the Service Justice System.

MPs have also suggested removing the chain of command from complaints of a sexual nature entirely.

“The fact that conviction rates for rape in military courts are even lower than in civilian courts suggests that the current system in place is not working. Over the years, police constabularies nationwide have developed a greater understanding of the sensitivities of such claims and have made significant improvements in the ways they handle such cases. Not only would their expertise lead to an improvement in the process, but allowing the civilian court system to deal with such matters could also avoid the widespread intimidation and bullying reported by officers.”

Hywel Thomas, Senior Associate Abuse Solicitor
Hywel Thomas

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