Nearly 1,000 sex assaults reported in Canada military last year: report

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Some 960 members of the Canadian military reported being victims of sexual assault in the last year, and 27 percent of women in the armed forces have been sexually assaulted during their career, Statistics Canada said on Monday.

Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance speaks during a news conference on the findings of the Statistics Canada Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The landmark survey, commissioned by the military, found 1.7 percent of regular force members of the military had been sexually assaulted in the last 12 months, nearly double the 0.9 percent rate of sexual assault among working Canadians.

According to the Statistics Canada survey, 840 military members reported unwanted sexual touching, 150 reported sexual attack, and 110 sexual activity without consent in the 12 months before the survey was conducted.

The survey, which garnered more than 43,000 responses and a 61 percent response rate among regular force members, found that women were four times more likely than men to report being sexually assaulted in the last year.

Women make up about 15 percent of Canada’s armed forces.

Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance said the results of the survey were both expected and sobering.

“Harmful sexual behavior is a real problem in our institution. We know it, and we are trying to tackle it head on,” Vance told a news conference.

“I’m more motivated than ever to eliminate this behavior and the perpetrators from our ranks.”

Vance launched Operation Honor, a military program to address sexual offenses, in 2015 after an external investigation said the Canadian Armed Forces had an underlying sexualized culture hostile to women and gays.

Western militaries are increasingly coming under scrutiny for their handling of sexual offences. A Pentagon report in May said sexual assaults in the U.S. military are still underreported.

The Canadian survey showed female victims were far more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone in authority, with 49 percent of women assaulted in the last 12 months identifying a supervisor or someone in a higher rank as the perpetrator. In contrast, 56 percent of male victims identified a peer as the perpetrator, the report showed.

Eight in 10 respondents reported seeing or hearing inappropriate sexual or discriminatory behavior, including jokes, unwanted comments, sexually explicit material being shared or displayed, insults, or pressure for dates or relationships, the report found.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Bernadette Baum