Many women enjoy army life, but sexual harassment and assault are very common.
How many women are there in the army?
In the army, the ratio of men to women is about 9:1.
If you join up, then normally you train in a single-sex platoon.
When you finish training, your unit will be mixed men and women.
How safe is the army for women and girls?
Everyone in the army should be respected, whatever their gender, but that’s not the experience of many women and girls.
The army is trying to deal with sexual harassment and assault but it’s a serious problem.
In 2021, a THIRD of women in the army said that in the last year they’d had at least one ‘particularly upsetting experience’ of sexual harassment or assault.
Girls aged under 18
The youngest recruits are most affected.
In 2021, ONE IN TEN girls aged under 18 were victims of a criminal sexual offence, according to information from the Ministry of Defence.
Girls aged under 18 in the army are TWICE as likely as civilian girls of the same age to report a sexual assault or rape to the police, according to information from the Ministry of Defence and the Office for National Statistics.
Girls aged under 18 in the army are TEN TIMES as likely as adult female personnel to be the victim of a sexual offence, according to information from the Ministry of Defence.
Advice from a female officer
In 2016, the advice of one female officer to women and girls joining up was:
‘You are going into a male dominated environment. You should all be aspiring to meet the male standard. If you want to be respected by the males you are going to be working alongside, this is what you need to do.’
It’s also important to realise that many women say they enjoy being in the army even though they face these problems, and shouldn’t have to.
If you want to check the facts here, these are the sources:
Between 2015 and 2020 inclusive, the armed forces service police recorded 31 sexual offences against girls aged 16–17, representing an average rate of 2.5% in the age group. In 2020, for example, the service police recorded eight sexual offences against girls in the age group, who numbered 280 at the time (8 / 280 = 2.9%). Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, ref. FOI2021/09403, 21 September 2021; MoD, ‘UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 2021’, 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-armed-forces-biannual-diversity-statistics-2021.
In 2019–20, police in England and Wales recorded 101,478 sexual offences (assault or rape) committed against women and girls, of which 7.3% (7,408) affected girls aged 16–17, representing a rate of 1.2% (7,408 offences / 618,095 population aged 16–17 in 2019). ONS, ‘Dataset: Sexual offences prevalence and victim characteristics, England and Wales (2019-20)’, 2020, https://tinyurl.com/ons-sexual-offences-2019-20; ONS, ‘Population estimates for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: mid-2020’ (Figure 8, 2019, England and Wales only), 2020, https://tinyurl.com/ons-pop-2019.
In 2021, 37 girls were victims in sexual offence cases opened by the Service Police, out of a total population of 290 girls serving in the armed forces; a rate of 12.8%. In the same year, 202 adult female personnel were victims of sexual offence cases, out of a population of 16,180; a rate of 1.2%. MoD, Ministerial answer to Parliamentary Question no.154396, 26 April 2022, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2022-04-14/154396; MoD, Sexual Offences in the Service Justice System 2021 Annual Statistics [Worksheet 3], 31 March 2022, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1064458/Murder_Manslaughter_Sexual_Offences_Supplementary_Tables.xls; MoD, UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 1 April 2021 [Tables 1 and 3], 10 June 2021, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1012586/Biannual_Diversity_Tables_Apr21.xlsx.