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Military faces #MeToo moment as thousands of female personnel detail abuse

Evidence of ‘bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual abuse and rape’ handed to inquiry

MPs investigating alleged abuses of power in the UK’s armed forces have been hit with a barrage of evidence from female personnel and veterans.

An “unprecedented” total of more than 4,100 current and former servicewomen have submitted written evidence to the defence sub-committee some of which detailed claims of “bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual abuse and rape”, The Times reports.

Around 40% of the testimonies, submitted via an anonymous survey, are from serving members of the military. The inquiry is being led by Army veteran Sarah Atherton, “who is the only sitting female MP with a regular military background”, the paper adds.

As the inquiry prepared to hear the first oral evidence today, Atheron said that the “weight of evidence” was “compelling” and included numerous complaints of “endemic low-grade sexism”.

Serving members of the Armed Forces were allowed to submit evidence after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace lifted a gagging order last year.

Wallace said this week that he was “grateful to all our servicewomen who shared their stories”, which are “providing valuable insights for this review”.

The inquiry - formally known as Women in the Armed Forces: from Recruitment to Civilian Life - has also received written submissions from charities and other organisations.

Lieutenant Colonel Diane Allen, who resigned in February 2020, will be the first to give spoken evidence. Allen hit the spotlight last May when she “revealed she was part of a private outpouring of grievances aired by female officers in a closed online forum” following the abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, as Sky News reported at the time.

She told the broadcaster that she “would certainly love for the army to have its #MeToo moment and just acknowledge what happened and move on”.

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