Sexual misconduct persists in military despite efforts to curb assault, StatsCan reports

There’s been little change in the number of members of the Canadian military reporting sexual misconduct despite efforts to crack down on assaults, a new survey indicates.

In 2018, 900 members of the regular Canadian Armed Forces, or 1.6 per cent, reported being victims of sexual assault over the previous year, compared to 1.7 per cent two years earlier, according to the Statistics Canada survey released Wednesday.

The report defines sexual assault as sexual attacks, unwanted sexual touching or sexual activity where the victim wasn’t able to consent.

Women soldiers, sailors and air crew members were four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault, and 4.3 per cent of women in the regular forces were victims, compared to 1.1 per cent of men.

The CAF launched Operation Honour in 2015 to respond to sexual misconduct in the workplace, bringing in programs to combat inappropriate behaviour, help victims and encourage reporting.

The report found 45 per cent of regular force members felt the operation has been very or extremely effective so far, and 49 per cent think it will be very or extremely effective going forward.

Overall,  sexual assault was more prevalent among the primary reserves, where about 2.2 per cent, or 600 people, reported sexual abuse. In  2016, 2.6 per cent of the part-time military members reported being victims of sexual assault.

The prevalence of sexual assault was nearly six times higher for women in the reserves, at seven per cent, compared to 1.2 per cent of men.

Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault experienced by regular and primary forces in 2018, which is consistent with reporting in the general population.

Younger women targeted

Reservists are comparatively younger than regular forces, with 34 per cent of reservists 24 years or younger, compared to eight per cent of regular force members.

More than half of all sexual assaults in the military, in both regular and reserve forces, involved a peer. But there is an exception among female reservists, who reported a higher number of incidents involving a supervisor or someone of a higher rank (51 per cent, up from 38 per cent in 2016).

Earlier this year, CBC News reported that seven 10 recommendations to stamp out sexual misconduct in the military were “not yet fully achieved,” four years after a former judge’s landmark report on rampant abuse in the ranks.

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