A sex scandal involving women working on submarines is rocking the British Royal Navy. An investigation is underway. The Daily Mail published a story based on an interview with Sophie Brooke, who is a former naval lieutenant. She described a “constant campaign of sexual harassment” involving male crew members compiling a “rape list” of their female colleagues. According to her, the male superiors addressed her with obscene expressions.
She found out that she was the sixth in a row on the list of crew women who were the first to be raped in the event of a crash. A married colleague took off his underwear in front of her.
The publication also cited two unnamed whistleblowers who supported her version. One employee revealed to the Mail that while she was sleeping she was sexually assaulted by a male senior who rushed to kiss her. She also alleged that a senior officer punched her in the kidney. Another left nude photos of models and 50p coins in her cabin with the apparent intention of her performing a sexual act in return. Other women said they were often forced to perform sexual acts, hit with clipboards and pens, or shouted at. The abuses are said to have been going on for more than a decade after the ban on recruiting women was lifted in 2011.
Fleet Commander First Sea Lord Ben Key told the newspaper he had called for an investigation and was “deeply disturbed” by the “disgusting” allegations. “Sexual abuse and harassment has no place in the Royal Navy and will not be tolerated” and anyone found guilty “will be held accountable”, regardless of rank, Key assured.
Retired Navy Rear Admiral Chris Parry told the BBC the problem was a reflection of the state of society. “I fear that some of the sexualized behavior that we see in the normal workplace carries over into submarines,” he said.
Emma Norton, director of the Center for Military Justice, a charity which provides legal aid to victims of harassment, told Sky News that only around 10% of women who experience serious harassment in the service make a formal complaint. because they “have no faith that they will get any justice or a fair hearing”. Norton added that the Royal Navy had not acted on repeated recommendations for greater independent oversight of such complaints.
According to official data as of 2019, women are 1% of the personnel of the submarine fleet.