Former captain pens memoir detailing sexism, alleged abuse in Canadian military
A former captain in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) says she still encourages women to serve despite experiencing rampant sexism and abuse during her career.
Though the title of her memoir, “Girls Need Not Apply,” may suggest differently, Kelly S. Thompson worries that without enough female representation, the attitude towards women in the military will not change.
“I always encourage women to join, because without women we don’t have change,” Thompson said during an interview on CTV’s Your Morning.
“Without women who bring all they have to the table, just as much as the men, we don’t come to appreciate what women bring to the table as far as the qualities that make them good at their jobs.”
Inspired by the four generations of family to serve before her, Thompson enlisted with the CAF when she was 18-years-old. She served as a logistics officer, specializing in human resources, for eight years before receiving a medical release due to injury.
Despite having “no regrets” about her time in the military, Thompson’s memoir details several alleged incidents that she says shed light on the sexism and abuse faced by many female soldiers.
In one incident, Thompson alleges she was groped so hard by a male colleague during a training exercise that she was left with five dime-sized bruises on her buttocks.
The book also discusses a colleague’s alleged sexual assault at the hands of another officer.
“I didn’t quite realize that the sexism was so prevalent. I got there and, on top of trying to just survive the experience like everyone else is, you’re also dealing with having expectations put on you,” Thompson said.
“You’re faced with a choice—do you say something? Do you be the woman who can’t take it, or can’t take a joke? Do you stand up for yourself, or do you just keep going silently, which is sort of how most of the women I saw functioned.”
The military has grappled with issues of sexual misconduct in the ranks since media reports in April 2014 claimed a large number of military sexual assaults were being ignored or downplayed.
The military began recording reported cases of sexual misconduct in 2015.
According to the 2019 Sexual Misconduct Incident Tracking Report, released last week, commanders received a total of 302 sexual misconduct complaints between April 2018 and March 2019, a decrease of 25 per cent from to 2017-2018 and 33 per cent from 2016-17.
In July, the federal government promised $900 million in compensation to settle multiple class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of survivors of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assault in the military.
One of those claims, filed by three former military members, said the Armed Forces was "poisoned by a discriminatory and sexualized culture" that encouraged sexual misconduct.
Thompson says the military’s response to her memoir has been “wonderful,” with several bases asking her to give lectures in relations to her experience.
She says women currently serving have thanked her for being honest about her experiences, and shedding light on the experience of women in the military.
“I did have positive experiences,” Thompson said about her career. “But I think we have to encourage our women to stand up for themselves, and also do that with a network of support.”