Army top brass hear stories of sexual harassment in service

Watch: Army top brass hear stories of sexual harassment in service

British Army top brass have heard stories of sexual harassment in the service as they were told some sexual offences are still going unreported.

Speaking at the Army Servicewomen's conference, the service's lead officer for diversity and inclusion shared her own personal experience of being a victim of sexual harassment in the forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Rebecca Macklin said: "I've been that person. I've been walked in on in the shower. I was running an exercise and I was walked in on.

"And you know what? I didn't want to be on that exercise anymore. I didn't want to be there. And, quite frankly, I didn't want to be in the Army anymore."

It was announced in December 2021 that the military chain of command would be removed entirely from complaints of a sexual nature.

Lt Col Macklin reiterated sexual crimes are not a chain of command issue and said they must be reported to police.

"Sexual crime must be reported to the police, and I'll say that again - rape and sexual assault must be reported to the police," she told the conference. 

"That is not a chain of command issue, that is a crime. And I'm telling you this because some people are not reporting it."

Colonel Hannah Stoy, co-chair of the Army Service Women's Network, spoke about the zero-tolerance policy on sexual offences and said she also wants to encourage soldiers to speak out.

"This is about our servicemen and servicewomen having the opportunity to be heard and to report those unacceptable behaviours to make sure we can get after them and stop them in the organisation," she said.

Col Stoy believes that if the Army gets this right, then trust in the Armed Forces will increase and operational effectiveness will improve.

Women currently make up just over 11% of the UK's Armed Forces.

According to the speakers at the Army Servicewomen's conference, there is a drive to boost recruitment numbers by making the service safer for women.

In 2021, the Defence Select Committee, led by Tory MP Sarah Atherton, conducted a report into women's experiences in the Armed Forces, which found "truly shocking evidence from female service personnel of bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape they experienced, some of which – even more disturbingly – involved senior officers acting as wrongdoers."

Commander of the Field Army, Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse, told Forces News: "The series of incidents that resulted in the Atherton report I think have made us all pause, to reflect on the things we have not done but should've done over the years."

He added there was a determination that he has "not seen before at the senior end of the Army" to right the wrongs of the past.

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