Servicewomen’s experiences of the aftermath of sexual assault in the British military: Blame, shame, and betrayal

Harriet Rosalind Colette Gray, Nicola Lester, Emma Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have seen increasing attention paid to sexual violence in the British military; in particular, there has been significant critique of the Service Justice System response. Little is understood, however, about how victim-survivors themselves experience such violence. This is the first peer-reviewed, empirical academic study that explores servicewomen’s lived experiences of sexual assault and its aftermath in the British military. We find that responses to reporting sexual violence in the British military can cause further harm to victim-survivors above and beyond that engendered by the violence itself. Gendered military culture shapes understandings of and responses to sexual offences in harmful ways. In addition, the prioritisation of institutional needs over individual wellbeing impacts victim-survivors’ experiences, most notably in creating the possibility that they themselves will be disciplined after reporting their victimisation. We show how these responses are experienced as a form of institutional betrayal. In response to our findings, we call for a much broader reckoning with the British military’s problem with sexual violence that goes far beyond present reforms to its system of criminal justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalRUSI Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Authors, 2023

Cite this