Senior military staff in dock over harassment

Senior staff are responsible for almost all serious incidences of sexual harassment in the Armed Forces, according to a government report.

A poll of nearly 9,400 female Armed Forces personnel, by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), revealed that 15% of personnel had had a “particularly upsetting” experience in the past 12 months.

In up to 95% of instances, the perpetrators were the individual’s line manager (21%), more senior personnel (36%) and senior non-commissioned officers (38%), the research found.

Almost all (99%) of the respondents said they had been in situations where sexual jokes, stories, language and material had been present. Two out of three (67%) had been the direct target of sexual harassment.

More than half (52%) of female personnel responded to the survey into sexual harassment, which was undertaken as part of an action plan agreed between the MoD and the EOC in June 2005. The MoD now has until June 2008 to provide measured proof of improvements in the number of reported cases of sexual harassment.

The chief of the defence staff, Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, said sexual harassment was a problem which had to be dealt with immediately. “This is not about political correctness; it is about operational effectiveness,” he said.

EOC chair, Jenny Watson, said: “The MoD has undertaken valuable research to discover the true extent of the issues it faces, and we welcome the leadership and determination that it has shown.”

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