As many as 960 regular members of the Canadian Armed Forces were victims of sexual assault involving fellow military member in the workplace, according to a Statistic Canada survey on sexual misconduct in the military.
The volunteer survey, which is the first of its kind in the CAF, queried respondents about experiences and their perceptions of sexual misconduct within the services. The online survey of regular and primary reserve members was conducted from April to June 2016.
More than 43,000 responses were collected representing 53 per cent of the CAF population. The key findings were:
- In the twelve months preceding the survey, 1.7 per cent (or 960) regular force members reported that they were victims of sexual assault in the military workplace or involving military members. Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault, reported by 1.5 per cent(or 840) regular force members.
- Women in the regular force were more likely than men to be sexually assaulted (4.8 per cent versus 1.2 per cent) in the twelve months preceding the survey.
Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours
- 79 per cent members of the regular forces saw, heard, or were personally targeted by sexualized behaviour in the military workplace or involving military members, Department of National Defence employees, or contractors.
- Sexual jokes were the most common type of sexualized behavior in the workplace, witnessed or experienced by 76 per cent of regular force members.
The survey was an offshoot of a report last year by former Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps.
Deschamp was asked by military commanders in 2014 to conduct lead an investigation into sexual misconduct in the military. In her report, Deschamp said she found a “sexualized culture” were female members of the Armed Forces were subjected to abuse ranging from harassment and sexual jokes to outright rape. She said the “endemic” sexual misconduct was condoned by the military leadership.
“While it is sobering and disappointing to know that members continue to be victimized and feel threatened in our work environment, this survey provides us with the specific evidence we need to focus our efforts on culture change and to eliminate the threat these behaviours represent to the Profession of Arms,” Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West said in a statement yesterday.
The survey gives CAF leadership and members a more detailed picture of the scope, prevalence, and nature of the problem of sexual misconduct. Increasing this understanding is a key component of Operation Honour, according to Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff.
Operation Honour is the military campaign to deal with sexual misconduct within its ranks.
“Harmful sexual behaviour is a real and present threat to our institution. Those who commit such acts are betraying the values of the country they are sworn to defend,” the CDS said. “The information in this survey will give us a better understanding of the scope and nature of the problem, allowing us to target our efforts under Operation Honour to eliminate this behaviour.”