The full extent of sexual assault in the ADF has been revealed. And it's horrific. - Women's Agenda

The full extent of sexual assault in the ADF has been revealed. And it’s horrific.

The Australian Defence Force has a damning history of failing to act upon allegations of sexual assault, according to a report released yesterday.

The Report on abuse at the Australian Defence Force Academy found sexual assault in the Australian military to be persistent and widespread. It found there were 2224 “plausible” allegations of sexual assault by 1650 victims in the force’s history.

Worst of all, it found that 1110 of the accused perpetrators are still serving in the Australian Defence Force – 594 in permanent ranks, 204 in active reserves and 341 in standby reserves.

The report found that many cases of sexual assault were perpetrated by senior-ranking servicemen and directed towards female cadets, most of whom were aged between 17 and 20.

36 instances of sexual assault on female cadets were confirmed to have taken place between 1991 and 1998, with some of the perpetrators still serving in the military today.

Yesterday speaking at the Executive Women Australia event the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Liz Broderick, said the findings were shocking and appalling, but not surprising. She has worked with the ADF for many years and because of that, has had some understanding of the enormity of the problem.

The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce was established by the Gillard government in order to investigate the armed services’ responses to reports of sexual assault and abuse.

The Taskforce believes its findings prove that sexual abuse is so entrenched and widespread in the ADF that the only responsible course of action is to launch a royal commission to investigate the service further.

“The taskforce considers that the only way of ensuring confidence that the allegations of very serious abuse at ADFA can be thoroughly and completely investigated, and appropriately dealt with, is by way of a royal commission,” the report reads.

The Taskforce examined instances of abuse dating back to the 1940s, but it made clear that it considers systemic sexual abuse to be an ongoing problem in the defence academy. It also notes that its findings are likely very conservative.

“It is also very likely that a significant number of people who have experienced abuse in Defence have not come forward to the Taskforce, and may never reveal their experiences of abuse during their time in Defence,” the report states.

The Taskforce said it is a matter of “grave concern” that the defence force has failed on several occasions to punish perpetrators of sexual abuse.
The Taskforce also expressed concern about the sheer number of attacks found to be occurring within the academy, particularly given the serious physical and emotional repercussions of these attacks on their victims.

“The serious abuse experienced by complainants at ADFA has had a significant impact on their lives and careers … These impacts have included physical injuries, severe emotional distress, serious psychological disorders, ostracism by peers, ruined careers, suicidal ideation, social isolation and many others,” the report read.

One victim described relentless physical abuse while serving in the RAAF: “It happened many, many times. I remember these nights vividly to be so violent, so scary, and so traumatising but I can also still feel the “helplessness” of being alone with the inability to defend myself.”

“The accounts of abuse related in this report are deeply disturbing and deserving of serious consideration… It is to be expected that members of the community reading this report will be appalled by the abuse described and will want to know what is being done about it,” said Taskforce Chair Hon Len Roberts Smith.

The Abbott government has said it will consider the request for a royal commission.

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