OTTAWA — The canadian armed Forces are seeing a boom in the number of reports of sexual assault in their ranks as a sign that efforts to combat this type of behavior have worked, and not as proof that these crimes are on the rise.
Between 1 April 2017 and 31 march, 111 sexual assaults were reported to military authorities, more than double of the 47 complaints filed in the previous year.
Although these numbers seem troubling at first glance, the commodore Rebecca Patterson, head of the intervention team strategic Forces against the sexual misconduct, the see of a good eye.
“It is positive that people feel free to denounce it,” said Ms. Patterson, who has taken command of the response team in July, during an interview last Thursday.
“It is necessary to add to this the fact that things that were perhaps neglected in the past are now reported as members of the armed forces have understood that they must make a report if they see things”, she added.
The armed Forces are not able to specify when the reported attacks took place, and they acknowledge that they have difficulty to compile the data collected from one end of the country to the other.
“As one progresses and it builds upon the analysis of our databases, the goal would be to be able to clarify if these cases involve active members or if they have occurred in the past,” said the commodore.
One thing is clear, it is that inappropriate behaviors are perpetuated in the armed Forces in the course of the last year, and this, in spite of the promises of zero tolerance of the chief of the Defence staff, general Jonathan Vance.
Beyond the sexual assault alleged, 76 other sex crimes have been reported, such as cases of sexual harassment, indecent assault, child pornography, abuse of power and sexual exploitation.
In addition to these allegations of a criminal nature, the military authorities have also been informed of 231 cases of inappropriate behavior such as remarks or jokes of a sexual nature are too frequent, the display of sexually-explicit content, and even pressure for sexual acts.
If some of these behaviors were exhibited before the promise of Jonathan Vance to adopt the hard line, about three-quarters of the reports relate to incidents that occurred in 2017, representing an average of 25 incidents per month.
The elimination of sexual misconduct in the ranks of the army remains a priority, ” assured Rebecca Patterson, while noting that it was a “process in the very long term to achieve a cultural change”.
The commodore reveals that in an internal survey, which has not yet been published, provides a further proof of the confidence of the staff vis-à-vis the commitment of senior military leaders to combat sexual misconduct.
The results show that 85 % of the military are trusted to the efforts of the chain of command to “create a culture of dignity and respect”.
In addition, approximately 55 % of the incidents of the last year have been reported by the victim or the target of inappropriate behavior, which would suggest, according to Ms. Patterson, an increased confidence in the system.
However, former commanders have been criticized in the past for the use of internal surveys to support that everything was going well, while reports in the media and that a survey conducted by the former supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps has shown that this was not the case.