Rape victims must report their attacker to the police and not the military, an army chief has urged female soldiers.
Lieutenant Colonel Rebecca Macklin told those gathered at the Army Servicewomen’s Network conference last week that she had personally experienced sexual harassment while serving, as she encouraged victims to report such crimes to the civilian police.
Lieutenant Colonel Macklin, lead officer for diversity and inclusion at Army Headquarters, told the conference she had “been that person” as she revealed what had happened to her earlier in her career.
“I’ve been walked in on in the shower. I was running an exercise and I was walked in on,” she said.
“And you know what? I didn’t want to be on that exercise anymore. I didn’t want to be there. And, quite frankly, I didn’t want to be in the army anymore.”
In December 2021, it was confirmed that the chain of command would no longer be involved in complaints regarding sexual assault.
‘Some people are not reporting it’
However, Lieutenant Colonel Macklin had to remind military personnel that the chain of command was not to be involved in such circumstances, “because some people are not reporting it”.
“Sexual crime must be reported to the police, and I’ll say that again - rape and sexual assault must be reported to the police,” she said.
“That is not a chain of command issue, that is a crime.”
The Telegraph has previously revealed how Armed Forces personnel who have been sexually assaulted refused to report their attackers because defendants were twice as likely to be cleared in military courts than in criminal courts.
Furthermore, a 2021 report into the female experience in the Armed Forces, led by Conservative MP Sarah Atherton, found “truly shocking evidence from female service personnel of bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape they experienced, some of which – even more disturbingly – involved senior officers acting as wrongdoers”.
Right the wrongs of the past
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Lt Col Macklin’s comments unfortunately reflect the experience of far too many women in our forces.
“Labour is listening to service personnel. We have challenged Conservative ministers to ensure serious offences like rape are investigated and tried in civilian courts, following calls from a judge-led review, the defence committee and service personnel and their families.”
Commander of the Field Army, Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse, told Forces News: “The series of incidents that resulted in the Atherton report I think has made us all pause, to reflect on the things we have not done but should’ve done over the years.”
He added there was a determination that he has “not seen before at the senior end of the army” to right the wrongs of the past.