Armed Forces: Sexual Offences

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 9th June 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps he has taken to ensure (a) understanding and (b) acknowledgement of the term Military Sexual Trauma (MST) by the Ministry of Defence and Office of Veterans Affairs; and what gender-specific training is funded by the Office of Veterans Affairs to help prevent the occurrence of MST during and after military service.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

Whilst I am aware that the term 'Medical Sexual Trauma' is used elsewhere as a means of referring to cases of sexual assault or sexual harassment which occur whilst in service, The Ministry of Defence has made no formal decision to do the same. What we have done is to make it absolutely clear that there is no place for this behaviour in the Armed Forces. All allegations will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate support provided to victims, be they serving or veteran. We recognise the great courage it takes to come forward and report a sexual offence. Personnel who come forward can have full confidence that all allegations are thoroughly investigated; Commanding Officers must always refer any allegation of rape and sexual assault, or any other offence which may have a sexual element, to the Service Police. Anyone found to fall short of the Services' high standards or to have committed an offence is dealt with appropriately, up to and including imprisonment and dismissal from service.

The Armed Forces are committed to addressing the issues of sexual assault and harassment through a range of actions, including awareness campaigns and training presentations around sexual consent.

For those who have served in the Armed Forces the Government's ambition is to make the United Kingdom the best place to be a veteran anywhere in the world. This ambition extends across the diversity of the veterans' community, including those whose service has been affected by sexual violence in any form. We recognise that such experiences can have profound and enduring impacts on an individual both during their service and as a veteran. This is why it is paramount that world class support services are available, both during an individual's service and afterwards. This includes within the Ministry of Defence's own medical services, the Chains of Command of the Armed Forces and the NHS' bespoke Armed Forces clinical pathways. This Government is committed to ensuring that any veteran or their family can access the support they need, including that support which may need to be specifically tailored to individual genders; we are continuously working to identify and draw upon lessons from other countries for both our serving and veteran populations.

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