Military reveals hundreds of cases of harmful sexual behaviour in ranks

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The Canadian Armed Forces have compiled hundreds of cases of inappropriate and harmful sexual behaviour over the past year as they try to gauge the level of wrongdoing endured by their members and tackle one of the most pressing issues facing the military.
According to new numbers released on Friday, members of the Canadian Armed Forces reported 504 cases of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The majority of cases dealt with jokes, belittling language and sexual imagery (281), but there were also numerous reports of, among others, harassment (74), assault (47), voyeurism (7), indecent exposure (6) and child pornography (3).
These complaints led to 180 cases in which individuals received administrative reprimands, including 117 individuals who are facing potential release from the Forces and 24 who have already been released.
In addition, the Canadian Armed Forces revealed that 288 cases were referred to military police during the same time frame. In relation to the 267 cases that were deemed to be founded, the military police laid 64 charges that led to 30 summary trials or courts martial, with 27 guilty verdicts.
General Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, initiated what he called Operation Honour to target sexual misconduct as one of his first orders of business when he was named Canada’s top soldier in July, 2015.
In their third progress report, the Canadian Armed Forces said that Operation Honour is having a “positive impact” by raising awareness in their ranks and convincing more victims to step forward and report instances of wrongdoing.
“CAF members are acquiring a greater understanding of the critical role of bystanders including response and support, as well as increased reporting and confidence in the chain of command, military police and military justice,” the new report said.
“Victims are coming forward to report knowing that they will be provided the care and support they need. Recruits are being informed of the standard of conduct they will be expected to uphold and the consequences of failing to do so before they join the CAF,” the report added.
More than 43,000 active members of the Canadian Armed Forces, representing 53 per cent of the military, participated in a Statistics Canada survey last year that found a greater prevalence of inappropriate and unwanted sexual behaviour than in the general population.
About 1.7 per cent said they had been sexually assaulted in the workplace or by a fellow military member within the past 12 months. That compares with 0.9 per cent of all working Canadians who reported that they had been the victim of a similar type of assault in any context over the same period of time.
Statistics Canada defines sexual assault as unwanted sexual touching, sexual attacks and sexual activity to which the victim is unable to consent. Unwanted touching was, by far, the most common complaint of the respondents.
“Harmful sexual behaviour is a real problem in our institution,” Gen. Vance told reporters when the report was released last year. “We know it, we’re trying to tackle it head on.”
“I am more motivated than ever to eliminate this behaviour and the perpetrators from our ranks,” he said, “because this survey shows some people were victimized after I launched Operation Honour, after I gave an order to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that this behaviour had to stop.”
Women in the armed forces were four times more likely than their male counterparts to say they had been sexually assaulted over the past year. And more than 27 per cent of military women said they had been assaulted at least once since starting their careers.
Half of the female respondents who said they were victims of a sexual assault identified their supervisor or someone of a higher rank as the perpetrator.
On a positive note, eight in 10 regular force members strongly agreed that complaints about sexual behaviour are taken seriously and that the behaviour is not tolerated.
But 79 per cent said they had seen or heard sexualized behaviour on the job – most of it in the form of dirty jokes – and another 34 per cent said they had seen or experienced discriminatory practices.

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