POLITICS

Elements of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military revealed by report

04/30/2015 06:00 EDT | Updated 08/09/2015 01:59 EDT
OTTAWA - A long-awaited review of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military was published Thursday, painting a portrait of a highly sexualized culture that creates a hostile and potentially dangerous environment.

Here's a look at five of the findings from former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps.

It begins early on:

"Experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault begin as early as basic training, where inappropriate language used by trainers appears to go unpunished. The consultations revealed that more serious conduct, such as dubious sexual encounters between trainers and trainees and date rape, is also prevalent. At the same time, interviewees commented that trainees are reluctant to call the behaviour of their trainers into question for fear of negative repercussions. As a result, many women trainees learn to keep their concerns to themselves early on."

What they hear:

"...A commonly held attitude is that, rather than be a soldier, a sailor or an aviator, a woman will be labelled an "ice princess," a "bitch" or a "slut." Another saying is that women enter the CAF "to find a man, to leave a man, or to become a man."

Men don't necessarily see that as a problem:

"Many men perceived the treatment of women in the military to be similar to what they would experience in broader Canadian society, and some felt that women in fact fare better in the CAF than men do. Others argued that inappropriate incidents are simply inevitable as a result of the integration of women into the CAF, or expressed the view that a certain degree of aggression is appropriate in the military. In particular, most men did not view sexual language as harassing, and thought that attempts to "police" language would be "ridiculous"; as one male participant stated, "Girls that come to the Army know what to expect."

But it affects them as well:

"The roots of inappropriate sexual conduct are not confined to discriminatory attitudes. Rather, such conduct appears to be more broadly related to issues of power and control. This is illustrated, for example, by the evidence the (review) heard about male-on-male sexual abuse, in which sexual violence is used as a means of punishing or ostracizing another member."

Victims don't want to come forward:

"Victims expressed concern about not being believed, being stigmatized as weak, labelled as a troublemaker, subjected to retaliation by peers and supervisors, or diagnosed as unfit for work. There is also a strong perception that the complaint process lacks confidentiality. Underlying all of these concerns is a deep mistrust that the chain of command will take such complaints seriously."

It will take the top brass to make a change:

"Lower-ranking male members need to see senior male leaders clearly acknowledge, through word and conduct, that inappropriate sexual conduct is unacceptable in the CAF. Lower ranking female members need to see that senior leaders value the role of women in the armed forces, and recognize the serious and negative impact of inappropriate sexual conduct."