Revealed: half of RAF women are victims of sex harassment

Secret report shows shocking scale of bullying and abuse. Urgent call for Hoon to act on scandals in the services

Almost half of all women serving in the Royal Air Force have been sexually harassed, according to an internal report obtained by The Independent on Sunday.

Almost half of all women serving in the Royal Air Force have been sexually harassed, according to an internal report obtained by The Independent on Sunday.

The official research, carried out last year but kept secret, indicates that more than 1,000 women are currently enduring or have suffered sexual harassment in the past 12 months.

Victims are typically harassed by two or more male servicemen of a senior rank, the survey found. Most of the victims had been groped or subjected to sexually explicit remarks or gestures, but only half of them complained.

Most worrying for service chiefs is that the survey found that sexual harassment had increased since a similar report three years ago.

It concluded that "whilst people experience unacceptable behaviour, the majority tolerate it and do not complain especially because they feel it will not be taken seriously or will affect their career".

The secret research is revealed after a week in which the conduct of the British Army has been under intense scrutiny as three soldiers face a court martial for allegedly abusing Iraqi detainees.

The survey shows that bullying of both sexes is also widespread in the service: the RAF's own figures suggest more than 3,000 of its staff have been targeted within the past 12 months. The RAF has a total staff of 46,350, of whom 6,300 are women.

The findings of the survey mirror those of a similar report carried out in the Army. That survey found that nearly 90 per cent of soldiers believed bullying was taking place in the ranks.

The extent of bullying in Britain's armed forces came to light recently after a series of investigations into the suspicious deaths of four recruits at the Deepcut army barracks.

Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, was called on last night to take urgent action to force the armed forces to institute "fundamental reform" of its complaints system to protect victims.

Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrats' defence spokes-man, whose questioning forced the Ministry of Defence to release its research, said: "These figures raise grave questions about the level of bullying and sexual harassment in the service. The RAF must urgently institute fundamental reform of the complaints system, which is profoundly inadequate."

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday yesterday, one superior officer. "My complaint was investigated by a man who was in effect our boss, and the strong impression was that this was a case of senior ranks protecting themselves. I was transferred to another unit where I was ostracised to the extent that I eventually had to leave the base.

"The RAF is a small world and I knew that this would follow me wherever I went. So after 11 years I was forced to leave, while the sergeant about whom I had complained was promoted."

Ms Brumfitt, backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), was eventually awarded £30,000 after an industrial tribunal found that she had been victimised for making her complaint.

In a second case backed by the EOC, Flight Lieutenant Padraigin Byard won damages after a tribunal heard evidence that her male crew had placed a bounty on her head for the first to have sex with her.

In a scathing judgment in the 31-year-old's favour, the tribunal stated: "We heard too many instances of senior officers with sexist views which have no place in an organisation committed to equal opportunities and which are quite frankly illegal."

The figures for the number of women suffering sexual harassment over the past 12 months were extrapolated from responses to a survey stated in the document, A Summary of Extended Analysis of 2003 Sexual Harassment, Sexual Discrimination and Bullying Survey.

An MoD spokesman said: "Part of the reason for carrying out these surveys is to establish the extent of any problems and what needs to be done to address them."

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on