Sexual assault more likely in Canadian military than in general: survey
Published Monday, November 28, 2016 8:48AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 28, 2016 5:15PM EST
OTTAWA -- Six per cent of women in the Canadian Armed Forces say they have been sexually assaulted in the last year, according to a new survey by Statistics Canada - far above the rate in the general public in Canada.
The survey also suggests female armed forces members are more likely to be assaulted by a superior and that many victims - both men and women - are afraid of negative consequences if they report a sexual assault.
Among the numbers reported by Statistics Canada on Monday:
- 1.7 per cent of regular force, or career, military members were sexually assaulted in the last year
- 2.6 per cent of reservists, part-time members serving in units in their communities, were sexually assaulted in the last year
That's compared to 0.9 per cent of Canadian workers 15 to 60 years old who told Statistics Canada they had been sexually assaulted in the last year.
Of the 1.7 per cent of regular force members who reported an assault, 77 per cent involved unwanted sexual touching, while 12 per cent reported multiple types of sexual assault.
Seven per cent experienced sexual attacks.
Four per cent of reports were situations where sexual activity occurred despite one person not being able to consent.
But the numbers broken down by sex show a stark difference.
In the military:
- 6 per cent of women - 4.8 per cent in the regular forces and 8.2 per cent of female reservists - were sexually assaulted in the last year
- 1.3 per cent of men - 1.2 per cent in the regular forces and 1.4 per cent of male reservists - were sexually assaulted in the same time frame
Among women aged 15 to 60 and active in the labour market, Statistics Canada says 1.7 per cent report being sexually assaulted in the last year.
Half of military responded
The difference between armed forces and civilian numbers is particularly striking since the military survey covered only cases that happened in the military workplace or in situations involving military members, defence employees or contractors, while the general population survey isn't limited to workplace assaults.
Statistics Canada provided the overall number that combined regular force and reserve members after CTV News requested it.
Among reservists, 75 per cent of those who reported experiencing sexual assault said they'd been sexually touched, while seven per cent said they'd been attacked. Six per cent reported sexual activity where they weren't able to consent, and 12 per cent reported multiple types of sexual assault.
Just over 10 per cent of full-time forces women said they'd been assaulted in the past five years, and 27.3 per cent reported having been assaulted since they joined the armed forces.
Fourteen per cent of women in the reserves reported being sexually assaulted in the last five years, up to 29 per cent who said they'd been assaulted at some point since joining the military.
The survey received 43,000 responses from the regular and reserve forces, or just over half of the military.
'Orders were clear'
"I am extremely disappointed," said Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff.
"My orders were clear, my expectations were clear. And those who choose or chose not to follow my orders will be dealt with through disciplinary or administrative action, as we have done for the 30 people we have removed from command or supervisory positions this year. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm happy if they leave our ranks permanently."
More than a year ago, Vance launched Operation Honour, which the armed forces describes as a mission to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the military. But as the country's top soldier observed, the operation is far from over.
Asked about perceptions of sexual assault in the military, 51 per cent of women in the armed forces said inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem, but only 36 per cent of men thought so.
Seven per cent of victims suffered physical injuries, according to the survey.
And, while most thought their units took complaints seriously, a minority of victims sought professional help: One in four women and one in 10 men.
Moreover, 43 per cent of victims of sexual attacks and 39 per cent of victims who were assaulted when they were unable to give consent said they didn't report the assaults because they were afraid of negative consequences.
The survey found women in the Canadian military are more likely to be assaulted by a supervisor, while the men were more likely to have been assaulted by a peer. Of female regular force members assaulted in the last 12 months, 49 per cent said it was a supervisor or higher-ranked member who was the perpetrator. For men, it was 36 per cent.
Reporting on punishments a deterrent
The survey also notes that in six per cent of assaults, the aggressor was the military member's intimate partner - a spouse or dating partner - who is also a Canadian Armed Forces member.
Until the end of last month, 18 people were removed permanently from command or supervisory positions under Operation Honour, while 12 were removed temporarily. The Army removed someone from command this week, said Rear Adm. Jennifer Bennett, director general of the military's strategic response team on sexual misconduct.
The Canadian Armed Forces court martialled five people for sexually related offences from January until the end of October, with four findings of guilt, with two more courts martial to be held this week. Bennett told reporters Monday morning that there were also nine findings of guilt in summary trials.
In April, the military started to track harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour resulting in administrative actions, ranging from recorded warnings to release from the armed forces, Bennett said. Those weren't separately recorded until then. In the period from April until Oct. 31, there were 83 administrative actions, she said.
"We're certainly going to make these numbers more public," Bennett said.
"Part of that is for our internal communications. We do see it as a deterrent."
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Vance has come out aggressively against sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces, and said he wants to root it out.
"I wanna be able to see action. Seeing these results it upsets me," Sajjan said after question period. "I have spoken to Gen. Vance about this and it upsets him as well. We have work to do."