MPs told of lesbian Wren's rape ordeal

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A former Wren yesterday told how she was afraid to report she had been raped because her assailant threatened to reveal she was a lesbian and thus ensure her discharge from the Navy. Karen Greig, a Navy engineer, was one of a number of former service personnel giving evidence to MPs looking at the forces' ban on homosexuals.

She was first raped in 1987 and her attacker then blackmailed her. She got transferred but he tracked her down and raped her again. "I felt I could not go to the authorities. I felt I would be the one to be kicked out," she told the committee. In 1988 she confided in a senior officer. At first he was supportive but later said: "I think you are not coping with this rape because you are a lesbian."

Next day the Navy's Special Investigation Branch arrived. Ms Greig was detained and examined by a psychiatrist but her ordeal was only beginning. While that was taking place, her father visited the base unexpectedly. He was told she had been raped and suffered a breakdown. That made it even more difficult to cope, Ms Greig said, and she was discharged in February 1989, after which she spent four months in a psychiatric hospital in Aberdeen. "I can now say I am clearly on the road to recovery," she said. What they did and how they treated me was horrendous."

John Reid (Lab, Motherwell), said he was appalled by her story, one of several which highlighted difficulties faced by homosexuals in the forces. Although homosexuality ceased to be a criminal offence under military law in 1991, lesbians and gay men still face dismissal for homosexual orientation as well as homosexual conduct.

The lack of confidential counselling for anyone "coming out" was a big problem, the MPs heard. Medical officers had to report anyone who showed any indication of homosexuality.

Only chaplains, who served under different conditions, could maintain confidentiality, although some did not, according to the Rev Niall Johnstone, a former army chaplain dismissed from the forces.

He said he knew that a number of chaplains had been pressed by commanding officers to divulge confidential information, although Army rules say "the obligation to respect a confidence does not change when a clergyman holds a commission as a chaplain in the Army, for in this area a chaplain remains subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction".

Medical officers, on the other hand, are responsible for the fighting efficiency of a unit, hold military rank and are not subject to the same rules of confidentiality as civilian doctors.

Robert Hayward, a statistician with the Stonewall gay- rights group, said the recent MoD report on changing the rules on homosexuality in the armed forces was biased, not done correctly and statistically invalid. Stonewall said it merely attempted to justify the status quo, under which homosexuals are automatically discharged from the forces.

The MPs were also told the MoD was wrong to say the forces were overwhelmingly against lifting the ban on homosexuals, although there was still "significant prejudice" against them in the forces.