[Fwd: Culture of sexual abuse in Canadian military]

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Tue, 19 May 1998 10:45:42 -0400

---------forwarded message---------

> Ottawa Citizen  May 19, 1998
> Military women 'game for sexual predators': report
> Magazine claims abuse, sex assaults are part of military 'culture'
> <"..we were taught to refer to women as split arses and gutter sluts ..">
> At least 27 women in the Canadian forces have been sexually assaulted,
> Maclean's magazine reports today. This week's cover story, Rape in the
> Military, suggests widespread tolerance and sometimes encouragement of an
> atmosphere of abusive, hateful treatment of women. Interviews with 13 of
> the victims, with the brother of one and with anonymous men in the military
> led Maclean's to conclude there is a "culture of unbridled promiscuity,
> where harassment is common, heavy drinking is a
> way of life and women, who now account for 6,800 of the Canadian Forces'
> 60,513 members, are often little more than game for sexual predators."
> Many of the women were attacked when they were most vulnerable, as new
> recruits or privates in their late teens or early twenties, in fear of
> rank. Some suffered nervous breakdowns, depression, eating disorders and
> suicide attempts. All have left the Forces, some after trying to tough it
> out. At least two quit after enduring assaults, then seeing other women
> being assaulted. They felt there was no way to intervene or to get justice
> if they reported the attacks.
> "They ruined my life," says Sgt. Nela Odarijew, a victim of attempted rape
> who quit the force after 20 years in 1994 and was diagnosed with
> post-traumatic stress disorder. She fled an attempted assault soon after
> being assigned the job of flight engineer on former prime minister Brian
> Mulroney's Challenger jet and living for years with humiliation that
> followed her escape.
> "The woman who once tossed grenades and fired machine-guns is afraid to
> answer her door or go to the mall," Maclean's says, in describing Catherine
> Newman of Ottawa.Ms. Newman was an air force captain who resigned from the
> Forces in Ottawain 1994 after a sexual harassment conviction she secured
> against Col. Romeo
> Lalonde was overturned. The court said a new trial could be held, but
> federal authorities did not ask for one.
> Defence Minister Art Eggleton is quoted as saying there is no statistical
> basis to indicate the sexual assault rate is higher in the military than
> outside but that whatever problems exist will be reduced by new initiatives,
> such as
> anti-harassment programs, a new investigative unit and a grievance
> board outside the chain of command.  "Those changes will do little to help
> those who have already suffered," writes Jane O'Hara. "Most of the
> incidents took place in the 1990s, after the military began its program of
> fully integrating women in the Armed Forces.  "And many of them reveal
> systematic mishandling of sexual assault cases; investigations were
> perfunctory, the victims were not believed and often they -- not the
> perpetrators -- were punished by senior officers who looked the
> other way or actively tried to impede investigations."
> "And in the opinion of many of the women victims, the abuse they suffered is
> as shocking as the Somalia scandal, when members of the Canadian Airborne
> Regiment tortured and killed a Somali teenager."
> Although Maclean's quotes several men confirming the abusive atmosphere,
> only one went on the record at length. He is Sean Cummings, a former
> infantryman in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, whose
> sister was raped by a fellow recruit at co-ed barracks in Halifax.  "I felt
> that if they could, they would hide this thing," he said.
> He had tried to persuade his sister not to join the Forces because of
> hostility toward women.  "We were taught to refer to women as split arses
> and gutter sluts."
> Mr. Cummings said he will be persona non grata with his former colleagues
> for talking to Maclean's. "My name will be dirt when they read this. Even
> though they know what I'm saying is true, I will have broken the code."