At sea with 1,200 men, and the majority of them sexually harassing you...

Wren tried to kill herself after years of constant humiliation by male colleagues in the Navy
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The Independent Online
A former Wren who was made to mime sexual acts in front of male colleagues was driven to attempt suicide after constant sexual harassment, an industrial tribunal was told yesterday.

Lesley Morris, 23, who lives in Shotton, near Chester, is claiming constructive dismissal after she took a paracetamol overdose and was then discharged from the service as "temperamentally unsuitable" in May 1995.

Miss Morris told the tribunal in Manchester she had been forced to mimic oral sex, had her breasts grabbed and was bullied on a daily basis during her four years in the Navy.

"It broke my heart to leave the Navy. It was all I ever wanted to do, but I was terrified of going back to sea because of the taunts," said Miss Morris, who was 17 when she joined the service.

"The first incident that made me question being there was when I was on all fours cleaning a floor and a chef put his foot between my legs. He didn't seem to think he was doing anything wrong, and when I reported it he was only told off."

Miss Morris, whose brother still serves in the Navy, says the male sailors constantly insulted the Wrens, calling them "sluts, slags, splits - short for split arses - and turtles".

Her ambition was to become a physical training instructor and she went to HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Cornwall, for training. "I was the only woman in the gym and I was given impossible tasks to do," she told the tribunal.

And she added: "As punishment, I was made to jump in the swimming pool in my white uniform, which became transparent when wet.

"I was asked questions like, `Are you cold because your nipples are erect?'."

She claimed that on three occasions her breasts were grabbed by a leading physical training instructor in front of other sailors. She was also forced to stand on a table and mime a woman giving a man oral sex. "I felt totally humiliated and was shaking like a leaf afterwards," Miss Morris told the tribunal.

"I lost my confidence and I thought, why doesn't anyone stop this?"

Miss Morris said that she did not complain formally because her life would have been made doubly worse by the male sailors, but she did inform some of her immediate superiors about what she was going through.

"All the Wrens were affected and sometimes we were even terrified to go into the dining room for dinner because of the constant taunts. No matter what we did or hard we worked, it was never good enough." Miss Morris, who was suffering gynaecological problems at the time, said she tried to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of paracetamol after she became extremely depressed.

When asked if she had not enjoyed naval life, Miss Morris replied: "I loved the Navy. I would never say anything against naval life. But when you are at sea with 1,200 men and the majority of them are sexually harassing you, that is not a good situation for a young girl.

"Every single day there were two or three insulting remarks."

She said that one officer had told her it would take 15 years for the Wrens to be accepted in the Navy.

The hearing continues today.

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