One in 13 female Canadian soldiers sexually assaulted, but number may be higher
Published Friday, August 15, 2014 5:43PM EDT Last Updated Friday, August 15, 2014 6:41PM EDT
Statistics Canada released a survey Friday indicating one in 13 female full-time members of the Canadian Forces had been sexually assaulted in connection with their service, but one expert said the numbers should be much higher.
Of the women surveyed, 7.6 per cent of women reported experiencing "sexual assault while deployed on CF operation or in CF workplace or by CF member or civilian DND employee."
However, 15.6 per cent of women surveyed reported experiencing "sexual assault or unwanted sexual touching while deployed on CF operation or in CF workplace or by CF member or civilian DND employee."
University of Ottawa Phd candidate Ashley Bickerton said while those statistics are troubling, she believes the actual numbers are far higher.
"When we speak about sexual assault in the military we need to be focussing in on one in six rather than one in 13," Bickerton told CTV News Channel on Friday. "We need to be asking more questions related to systemic sexual harassment" in the military, she said.
Bickerton said the reason why she believes it is actually much higher is because the definitions are outdated.
Bickerton said the two definitions Statistics Canada used for the survey are actually one in the same. Statistics Canada said they used those definitions because it coincided with past definitions so they would be able to make accurate comparisons.
"That's fair, but I think that things have changed in recent years," Bickerton said. "Our understanding of sexual assault has certainly been made much more contemporary. Our understanding is much more broad than it has been in the past."
Statistics Canada surveyed 6,700 full-time service members between April and August of 2013. It would not include anyone who was sexually assaulted and left the military or reserves forces. The survey was part of the greater Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey, which also looked at mental health and alcohol use.
Regardless of the numbers in this survey, Bickerton said this is a longstanding problem that needs to be addressed.
A retired judge is currently in the process of putting together an external review into sexual assault policy and procedures, training and culture in the Canadian Armed Forces. The results are expected next spring.