We posted on January 28th that a new report from Germany notes that 55% of women in the German armed forces have been sexually harassed, and of these a full 27% were victims of sexual assault or “unwanted sexually motivated physical contact.”
Now comes word of a similar report from the UK — the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey, in which the Guardian reports that in 2013, 10% of military personnel reported being a victim of “discrimination, harassment or bullying in a service environment.”
Moreover, a new report from Israel has similar statistics. Brigadier-General Rachel Tevet-Wiesel reported to a Knesset committee that there has been an increase in reported sexual harassment over 2012 by both male and female soldiers; one of eight women in the military suffered sexual abuse in 2013; half of the reported incidents involved physical harassment and 4% “ended in rape.” Moreover, a majority of women subject to sexual misconduct have never reported the issue.
The Jerusalem Post quoted the General as saying that “We consider the non-dramatic rise in the number of reports of sexual harassment a result of greater awareness on the part of soldiers and commanders.”
Is the Chain of Command Hindering The Elimination of Sexual Harassment?
In both the UK and Israel there appear to be increased calls for “an urgent overhaul into the way the armed forces deal with sexual assaults and rape complaints,” as a senior Labour MP in the UK put it. She reportedly said that “a new independent armed forces ombudsman was needed to properly investigate such complaints. Installing an ombudsman would allow service personnel to resolve grievances outside the chain of command and give them increased confidence to speak out (emphasis added).” Sounds like some calls for new legislation in the US.
The Chairwoman of the Israeli Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women was reportedly similarly critical of the “lax policies in senior officers guilty of harassment” and said that “Maybe we should take the judicial system out of the army?”
She seems to be saying what one of our readers said in commenting in our blog of May 30, 2013 about our question whether the chain of command in the US military has perpetuated the problem of sexual harassment:
“I believe asking the military chain of command to police itself with regard to sexual assaults is just as ridiculous as a CPA firm performing its own audit. There has to be an unbiased third party and/or panel that can investigate and prosecute so there is no internal sphere of influence. It’s only fair, for someone who volunteers to serve for our country, that they receive the same personal safety rights that any U.S. citizen receives! It’s just plain sad that military personnel would turn on each other in the first place, especially when they are supposed to have each others’ backs.”
A lot more needs to be said about this, especially in light of Senator Gillibrand’s bill which deals with such issues. Stay tuned for further blog posts.