Abuse in the Armed Forces

Claiming compensation for abuse in the Armed Forces

In this article we look at the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse within the British Armed Forces. For further guidance on making a compensation claim for abuse in the Armed Forces contact our free helpline for a case assessment.

Women make up the minority of officers within the Armed Forces yet they constitute a majority of the victims of sexual assault, harassment, and bullying.

In May 2023, the Defence Committee published anonymised evidence supplied by a team who deliver clinical and occupational health care and advice to both service personnel and their Commands within three Armed Services. They have attempted to expose the true extent of sexual abuse of serving females, how this affects them, and how many are hesitant to report this behaviour, leaving a dark figure of crime.

The Committee heard a number of circumstances where female personnel had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by their male counterparts before going onto discuss themes which can be drawn from the anonymous reports. It was found that women were likely to not report inappropriate behaviour due to fear of not being taken seriously or by doing so, how it may negatively impact their own career. Those women who do report this behaviour often find they are subjected to victim-blaming, resulting in them being removed from the unit rather than the perpetrator. Additionally, lack of support available to females leads to further stress and mental decline.

In 2023, the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS) conducted a survey amongst personnel around a number of factors. Regarding sexual abuse, 12% of female personnel reported being subjected to sexual harassment in the 12 months prior. This specific data started to be collected in the 2021 survey and levels have remained consistent, which does not suggest that vast improvements are being made. Although on the face of it, this percentage may seem moderately low, 11% reflects approximately 1,800 females (according to personnel levels in 2021). This does not take into account those female personnel who did not submit answers to the survey or who did not wish to state that they had been subjected to this behaviour.

The Army’s Sexual Harassment survey (2021) shows that sexual harassment within the workplace is most prevalent where there is an imbalance of power, unequal ratio between males and females, and where an Authoritarian style leadership is present.  These factors, along with a hypermasculinity culture, can arguably make females more susceptible to falling victim to inappropriate behaviour within the Armed Forces. Alongside this survey, the Atherton Report (July 2021) was published which focused on females who had experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment, or discrimination within the Armed Forces. 62% of 4,106 respondents stated they had experienced this themselves and 54% stated they had witnessed this happening to another female colleague.

Numerous surveys, inquiries and reports document the prevalent issue that female’s personnel within the Armed Forces face regarding sexual abuse and harassment.

For a confidential chat about making a compensation claim for abuse in the Armed Forces on a No Win, No Fee basis, contact our free helpline for a case assessment.

Call us on 0333 888 0445 or, if you prefer, send an email to us at [email protected] 



Abuse in the Armed Forces