Women in the Armed Forces face ostracization and punishment when reporting sexual misconduct, reveals a new study.
This study, the first empirical approach to experiences of sexual assault in the armed forces, found that women who report sexual misconduct overwhelmingly face ostracisation and ‘nearly all’ receive punishment for breaking rules. It identified a ‘misogynistic and toxic’ culture facilitates rampant harassment and abuse by male colleagues.
Participants in this recent study reported feeling that ‘responses to their reports were primarily oriented around protecting the organisation, its interests and its normal ways of functioning over and above their needs as survivors.’ They recounted ‘disbelief, blame, shame and ostracisation’.
One interviewee, after reporting her sexual assault by a colleague, was reprimanded by her commanding officer for having been drinking. Another alleged that her workplace became a ‘hostile environment’ after reporting her assault, with colleagues refusing to work alongside her. ‘If you spoke out, you [were] ostracised,’ she recounted.
This report follows the inquiry into the death of Jaysley Beck in 2021. Beck, 19, took her own life after ‘an intense period’ of sexual harassment at the hands of her immediate manager – ‘almost certainly’ a cause of her death. Beck had been reluctant to report this harassment due to the army’s poor handling of a prior sexual assault complaint.