Women officers harassed on submarines in British Royal Navy

Female British Royal Navy submariners reportedly experienced sexual harassment and intimidation. Adm Sir Ben Key, the head of the Royal Navy, ordered an investigation into “abhorrent” allegations in the submarine service in response to troubling information from whistleblowers.

According to the Daily Mail, former Navy Lt. Sophie Brook said that she was subjected to physical assaults as well as a “constant campaign of sexual bullying.” When a new female crew joined, she described the male submarine crew as “vultures.”

Male submariners allegedly created a “crush depth rape list” where women were sequenced in the order they should be raped in the event of a catastrophic event, among other allegations of physical and psychological abuse.

On her journey to become the first female submarine captain, the 30-year-old created history by becoming the first female combat officer. She spent most of her time aboard nuclear-armed submarines of the Vanguard class. The fleet, which is comprised of nuclear-powered submarines, according to the former lieutenant, is a “no place for women,” and two additional whistleblowers have largely confirmed the disturbing details of the former lieutenant’s account. They also concur that the branch, which is predominately male, has failed to provide a friendly workplace for women.

After the branch’s long-standing ban on female recruiting ended in 2011, abuse is alleged to have been prevalent for more than ten years.

The navy’s commander, Adm. Ben Key, labelled the claims horrifying. “I am deeply disturbed to hear of allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the Submarine Service and I want to reassure our people, and anyone who is reading this, that any activity which falls short of the highest of standards the Royal Navy sets itself is totally unacceptable and not a true reflection of what service life should be,” he said.

“These allegations are abhorrent. Sexual assault and harassment have no place in the Royal Navy and will not be tolerated. I have directed my senior team to investigate these allegations thoroughly. Anyone who is found culpable will be held accountable for their actions regardless of their rank or status,” Key further added.

The British Ministry of Defence did not respond to specific charges but did acknowledge that more needed to be done to address inappropriate behaviour. It stated that it is working to improve reporting methods for sexual crimes.

Notably, Brook departed the Navy after being probed and court-martialed for sending secret information about her submarine’s location to her married boyfriend in an email. She quit in January but was legally fired in June and sentenced to four months in prison with suspension.

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