In the last twelve months 960, or 1.7 per cent, of Regular Force members reported that they were victims of sexual assault according to a new Statistics Canada Survey.
The survey, which collected response from more than 43,000 active military members, indicated that women were four times more likely than men to report being sexually assaulted in the last twelve months, 4.8 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent. A majority of the sexual assaults are comprised of unwanted sexual touching (1.5 per cent or 840 Regular Force members.)
Commissioned by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, the survey is intended to provide a benchmark to the CAF on sexual misconduct after the introduction of Operation Honour.
“When I spoke to you in August, I told you I expect the results of this survey would be sobering, and they are. Regrettably, they are,” said Vance at a press conference on Monday morning Nov. 28 on the Stats Canada survey.
The survey also found that more than a quarter of women (27 per cent) have been sexually assaulted since joining the CAF, compared to 4 per cent of men.
Women are also five times more likely to be sexually attacked (.9 per cent versus .2 per cent) and six times more likely to be subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent (.7 per cent versus .1 per cent).
According to Stats Canada, the instances of sexual assault, including unwanted sexual touching, sexual attack, and sexual activity, are occurring at a rate above that of the general Canadian population. When compared to similar age and activity in the labour force, .3 per cent of men and 1.7 per cent of women from the general population have reported instances of sexual assault in the last year.
When it comes to the perpetrators of such acts, women report that 94 per cent of the time the act was carried out by a man, almost half of the time by a superior. Males, on the other hand, commonly reported that acts of sexual assault were carried out by peers.
The survey also indicated that there is still a prevalence of sexual misconduct and sexual behaviour within the CAF; 79 per cent of Regular Force members reported that they either saw, heard or were personally targeted by sexualized behaviour in the military workplace involving military members, Department of National Defence employees, or contractors. A large majority (76 per cent) of instances of sexualized behaviour came from sexual jokes.
For primary reserve units, 2.6 per cent reported that they were victims of sexual assault in the last 12 months. Female primary reserve members were more likely than their male counterparts to report that they were victims of sexual assault (8.2 per cent versus 1.4 per cent).
Despite the statistics, the survey also indicated that a majority of CAF members are aware or somewhat aware of Operation Honour (98 per cent).
The survey, which was conducted from April to June 2016, will serve as a point of reference for policy makers and senior officials within the military going forward.
“CAF members have responded in unprecedented numbers about their experience and perceptions of inappropriate sexual behavior, discrimination and sexual assault within the Canadian Armed Forces. This information is critical for all of us to understand the true scope and nature of the problem in our institution, and as well the challenges members continue to face and where we must realign our action plan in order to achieve the mission of Operation HONOUR and ensure a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.
“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 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,” stated Gen. Vance.
Since the launch of Operation Honour, the CAF has removed 30 military members from positions of command due to allegations of sexual assault. Though some were initially only temporary, since then, 18 members have been removed permanently following investigations.
Additionally, between January and October 2016, five court marshals have been held resulting in four guilty convictions. Two court marshals are set to be held this week.
Also, 83 perpetrators have had various levels of administrative action against them from April through October of this year. Actions range from recorded warnings to, in some cases, release from the CAF.
Above image: Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan H. Vance, addresses the audience during an Operation HONOUR Progress Review held on August 30, 2016 at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario.
Photo: Corporal (Cpl) Michael MacIsaac
Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa)/ Unité de soutien des Forces canadiennes (Ottawa)