Investigation Launches for Abuse and Sexual Harassment in the Royal Navy

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Investigation Launches for Abuse and Sexual Harassment in the Royal Navy
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After several whistle-blowers came forward with claims of mistreatment from all ranks, the head of the Royal Navy launched an investigation. The investigation looks at multiple allegations. These include bullying, abuse and sexual harassment in the Royal Navy against women in the Submarine Service.

Adm Sir Ben Key, the First Sea Lord, called the claims “abhorrent”, adding “sexual harassment has no place in the Royal Navy and will not be tolerated”.

He adds, “Anyone who is found culpable will be held accountable.”.

What Were Claims of Abuse and Sexual Harassment in the Royal Navy?

The whistle-blowers brought to light allegations which include:

  • male crew members compiling a list which sets out the order in which they would assault women in the event of a catastrophic event.
  • One woman claiming she was sexually assaulted by a man of a higher rank as she slept.
  • Aggression in the form of a senior officer punching a woman in the kidney.
  • Officers leaving naked pictures of models for one of the women.
  • The men posted 50p coins into one of the women’s cabins, suggesting she would perform a sexual act in return.
  • The men frequently asking the women to perform sex acts. These women were often screamed at and hit with clipboards and pens.

It is claimed the abuse has been happening for more than a decade after a ban on female recruits was lifted in 2011.

Abuse and Sexual Harassment Normalised in the Royal Navy

A recent interview between one of the whistle-blowers (who we will cause Louise – not her real name) and the BBC highlights a deeper issue in the Royal Navy. Louise spent several months at sea on board Royal Navy warships and says sexual harassment is rife in the navy because it is “normalised”.

Louise states, “It’s like they’re all living in a parallel universe out there.”

“The night before they hit shore – unless they are on duty – they drink ridiculous amounts.”

Louise states that she sees alcohol as a key trigger to the unacceptable behaviour she experienced.

On one occasion, in 2019, an officer stuck his hand up her skirt while they were drinking in the Officer’s Mess.

The Ministry of Defence Yet to Respond to Allegations of Abuse and Sexual Harassment in the Royal Navy

When Louise protested, putting a stop to the harassment by announcing she was returning to her cabin, the officer followed her to her room.

She says, “He thought me going to bed was an invitation.”

“He hammered on my door, condom in hand. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Even the morning after – having eventually given up his pursuit – there was no apology forthcoming. “He thought it was totally normal behaviour.”

The Ministry of Defence has been contacted about Louise’s allegations but is yet to respond. The incident was not reported at the time.

A Culture of Sexual Harassment

Louise states “I worry about these boys. It’s not their fault if they are told this is normal. It’s a culture. No one above them is setting an example.”

“The Navy needs to wake up and realise this is not the way the world operates.”

Former Navy Rear Adm Chris Parry told the BBC’s Today programme that he believes the issue is also a reflection of wider society.

“I’m afraid some of the sexualised behaviour that we see in the normal working place is transferred to submarines, as you would expect, and of course in a compressed environment everything becomes exaggerated,” he said.

He said the issue requires leadership, including “zero tolerance from the top down and the bottom up.”

Additionally, when he commanded ships with a mix of genders he took “very seriously” accusations of assault.

Emma Norton, from charity the Centre for Military Justice, said any investigation would still involve “the Royal Navy investigating the Royal Navy”.

Finally, she states: “What a lot of campaigners and servicewomen have been calling for many, many years, is for those responsible for investigating serious complaints like this to be taken away from the single services and handed to an independent body.”

1% of Submarine Service Personnel Are Women

According to the Ministry of Defences (MoD) website, it states that the Submarine Service is “unseen and unhindered.” In addition it has “built an enduring reputation for professionalism and courage”.

Figures revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that, as of 2019, just 1% of Submarine Service personnel were women.

Furthermore, Adm Sir Ben responded to the allegations stating: “I want to reassure our people, and anyone who is reading this, that any activity which falls short of the highest of standards the Royal Navy sets itself is totally unacceptable and not a true reflection of what service life should be.”

“These allegations are abhorrent. Sexual assault and harassment have no place in the Royal Navy and will not be tolerated.”

Statements From the Ministry of Defence

The MoD has said that while most navy staff enjoy rewarding careers. However, some personnel, predominantly women, have been affected by inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

The Mod has accepted that more needs to be done to improve the experience of all personnel. In addition, improved mechanisms are needed when reporting sexual offences.

In 2019, the MoD published a detailed report on inappropriate behaviour. The report includes recommendations on how to tackle the issue in the Armed Forces. This included improving the complaints system and processes, encouraging more complaints, and dealing with them better when they occur.

“Ultimately, however, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour can only be addressed through a determined effort across the whole force to change the culture, driven persistently from the top,” the report said.

In addition, Diane Allen, a retired lieutenant colonel from the British Army, said the military needed its own ‘Me Too’ moment. She refers to the movement which saw people share their experiences of sexual harassment.

How Our Sexual Harassment Solicitors Can Help Your Claim

Our sexual harassment solicitors are available to support you through your claim, making sure you get the compensation you deserve.

Our solicitors will guide you through the legal process. We will assure you choose the best options to aid in the success of your claim. At AWH, we believe that sexual harassment in any workplace is a serious matter and should not be ignored. Therefore, our sexual harassment solicitors will work closely with you to hold those who are responsible for the harassment accountable.

Get in contact with our team of solicitors to start your claim.

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