Home Sexual Harassment Significant increase in number of sexual assaults in Canadian Armed Forces: Statistics Canada

Significant increase in number of sexual assaults in Canadian Armed Forces: Statistics Canada

by HR Law Canada

There has been a significant increase in the number of sexual assaults within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The 2022 Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF) found that approximately 1,960 Regular Force members, or 3.5%, reported experiencing sexual assault in the military workplace or in incidents involving CAF or other military members.

This rate, which encompasses sexual attacks, unwanted sexual touching, and sexual activities where the victim was unable to consent, has significantly risen from the 1.6% in 2018 and 1.7% in 2016.

The 2022 SSMCAF focused primarily on Regular Force members, predominantly full-time members, to examine experiences of sexual assault, sexualized behavior, and discrimination in the military workplace.

The findings show a disturbing trend, particularly among women in the Regular Force, where sexual assault was more prevalent at 7.5%, compared to 2.8% among men. This gender disparity is consistent with trends observed in both the military and general population.

Additionally, Regular Force members who are younger, Indigenous, have a disability, or identify as non-heterosexual reported higher prevalence of sexual assault. The most common form of sexual assault was unwanted sexual touching (3.3%), followed by sexual attacks (0.6%) and incidents where victims were unable to consent (0.6%).

Notably, one in three victims (33%) attributed the assault to the perpetrator’s alcohol or drug use, with women more likely than men to report this factor.

Despite the rise in sexual assault cases, the level of reporting to authorities has decreased since 2018. Only 21% of Regular Force members reported the incident, compared to 25% in 2018. The most cited reason for not reporting was the belief that it would not make a difference, accompanied by fears of negative consequences and resolving the situation informally.

The survey also highlighted a rise in personal experiences of sexualized or discriminatory behaviors in 2022, with nearly one in five Regular Force members reporting such experiences. Women were more than twice as likely as men to experience these behaviors. Interestingly, more Regular Force members intervened when witnessing these behaviors compared to 2018.

Despite these challenges, most Regular Force members hold positive views about their unit’s recognition and response to incidents of sexual misconduct. However, less than two-thirds feel that the CAF holds perpetrators accountable.

This report, based on the SSMCAF conducted by Statistics Canada between October 2022 and January 2023, represents responses from 18,582 Regular Force members. While the response rate has declined from previous surveys, the data is considered a reliable representation of members’ experiences in 2022.

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