Women are facing serious and long-lasting physical and mental health problems in the UK military from “pervasive” emotional bullying, sexual assault and physical assault, research shows.
According to the findings published in the BMJ, those most likely to experience such treatment were younger employees, those who held officer positions or took on combat or combat support roles. military Health magazine.
Of the 750 female veterans surveyed, 22.5% said they were sexually assaulted, while 5.1% said they had been sexually assaulted. Of those women, 22.7% were subjected to emotional bullying, while 3.3% said they had been physically assaulted.
The researchers found that sexual harassment in forces was promoting physical somatization, where women experience physical symptoms such as pain or fatigue due to mental distress.
According to research from the University of Oxford, King’s College London and the charity Combat Stress, sexual harassment is causing alcohol problems, while emotional bullying is causing anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Poor treatment of all types left women at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, and different types of adversity had specific effects on women’s mental health and well-being.
About 16,500 women serve in the UK military, where they make up about 11% of the personnel. In 2018, all roles were opened to him, including frontline combat deployments.
Researchers believe the findings suggest an urgent need to provide more support to military women.
Sexual harassment was “significantly” linked to a condition where women found themselves in pain or fatigue due to mental distress.
The research also found that sexual assault may put women at a “greater risk of alcohol difficulties,” while emotional bullying left them with issues such as anxiety, depression, low social support, and loneliness.
The study found that women who held rank as an officer were at greater risk of sexual harassment as well as emotional bullying, but the scientists also note that “even women holding positions of higher power may also be at risk of suffering from their superiors”.
Since women are in the minority in the military, “it cannot be denied that women of higher rank may be hunted by their own peers as well as those of lower rank”.
The researchers cautioned that no firm conclusions could be drawn about the cause and effect behind their findings because this was an observational study and further research was needed. The study was based around self-reported events, meaning it may have underestimated the true picture experienced.
But he adds: “Many women do not report adverse service experiences for fear of the consequences of doing so and may continue to have increased mental health distress during and after military service.
“It is necessary to consider whether current reporting procedures may not provide sufficient confidentiality to encourage women to report adverse experiences and that more appropriate disclosure procedures should be considered.”
He said it may be worth considering whether organizational and leadership changes can be made to better protect military women. “In addition, it is necessary to consider whether existing support is sufficient to support the mental health needs of women who have experienced military adversity,” he said.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said: “[We] Do not tolerate abuse, bullying, harassment or discrimination.
“We have taken several steps to improve the experiences of women in our armed forces, as we continue to do for all serving personnel. This includes launching a 24/7 confidential and independent full force bullying, harassment and discrimination helpline with trained counselors to support personnel.
“All allegations are taken very seriously, with an investigation into unlawful behavior as necessary by the relevant police service.”