Servicewomen – in their own words

01st Dec 2023

Today the written evidence of the servicewomen that decided to give evidence to the follow-up session of the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces has been published.  You can access the submissions here:

It’s worth a look. No commentary is required as the women can speak for themselves:

‘Some women weren’t liked or weren’t sexually attractive to a majority of the straight male population, and were to varying degrees ostracised for that reason. Others were viewed as sexually attractive, and so were objectified on those grounds … The sexualised dynamic that I experienced was one of having to constantly pacify the undercurrent of subliminal, possessive behaviour that my male peers often demonstrated. Consistently I was sexually objectified, or viewed as something to compete over, or relied on to do emotional work.

‘On a Friday walk around, he came into my office and completely unsolicited, started explaining how in the past he had shared misogynistic memes online, but he had now consciously decided not to delete them because that would be a “step too far”. This was around the time of all the publicity of the report of the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces and I understood to be a direct reaction on his part to that.’

‘I have found myself intimidated and threatened in the mess environment, despite those making me feel this knowing I am happily married. Sadly, I think my discomfort has been witnessed by others around and those males witnessing the situation have chosen instead to ignore a potential situation rather than check on my well being. The last instance I felt I was only able to escape because a good friend walked past at near enough distance that I was able to grab them and pull them into the conversation, and keep hold of them so that they didn’t walk past or walk away.’

‘I have tried to resolve and raise these issues informally and formally. On raising these issues, I have then been subject to further bullying, harassment and intimidation. I have been threatened that my Chain of Command will take me to court if I ever mention these issues again. Through raising these issues, I have been made to feel like I am the problem.’

‘Other examples include males knocking on my personal door on a military base (block) in the late evening, intoxicated. Witnessing inappropriate sexual language from males towards other female personnel and sadly many reports of sexual assault, harassment and rape. I was harassed by the individual that raped me, with several text messages asking me to go out with him etc that again, should not be happening.’

‘It’s sad to say but inappropriate images sent via work messaging groups, racist and sexist discriminatory language and bullying and harassment, from my experience of twelve years in the Army, are still incredibly commonplace. In my case these included things like a colleague sending pictures of his penis on a work group WhatsApp group and his other male colleagues asking me what I thought of it, comments being made about my (and other women’s) bodies when exercising, being subjected to horrible personal comments about my clothes and appearance when in and out of uniform – something that was never directed towards the men of course – constantly being told that I was ‘playing the female and/or race card’ – constantly being told that I had to understand how the men in my unit felt and that they were always worried I might complain about them – which of course in the end I had to, because their behaviour was so disgusting. Predictably I then became seen as the problem, not their behaviour. I would not advise Black women to join the Army’.

And lots of references to sexual assaults.

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