Nearly seven in 10 Canadian military college students have witnessed or experienced “unwanted sexualized behaviours” in the past year, according to new research from Statistics Canada.
The StatsCan report, released today, also found that an overwhelming majority of those students — 94 per cent of men and 91 per cent of women — have opted not to intervene in such incidents in the past because they didn’t think the incidents were serious enough, or because they felt uncomfortable.
The military’s campaign to stamp out sexual misconduct, Operation Honour, depends on members speaking up and reporting incidents when they see them.
The survey, conducted among officer cadets at both of the country’s military colleges, also uncovered serious complaints.
“Overall, 15 per cent of women [Canadian military college] students indicated that they had been sexually assaulted in the post-secondary environment during the previous 12 months, a proportion more than four times higher than men (3.6 per cent),” the report said.
Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault experienced by both women and men last year, according to the survey.
From jokes to contact to assault
The report defined “unwanted sexualized behaviour” as unwelcome sexual attention, comments and jokes, as well as unwanted physical contact — including sexual assault.
“Many students who personally experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours indicated that they experienced them on more than one occasion,” said the report, written by researcher Ashley Maxwell.
Overall, 68 per cent of students said they had seen or experienced “unwanted sexualized behaviours” since 2019.
The survey said the most common type of behaviour “witnessed or experienced by both men and women was sexual jokes.”
In terms of degree of offensiveness, military college students indicated that the most offensive type of behaviour was repeated pressure for dates or a sexual relationship, the report said.
The survey of Canada’s two military colleges — the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. and the Royal Military College Saint Jean, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu — was conducted online from February to July 2019 and involved 512 cadets.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he was “deeply concerned” by the findings.
“This report shows that too many officer-cadets have experienced sexual misconduct or discrimination,” Sajjan said in a media statement.
“Even one instance of sexual misconduct or discrimination is one too many. That is completely unacceptable and has no place in our institutions or our country.”
He pledged to take “all action necessary to ensure that these educational institutions are safe and inclusive for everyone.”
Despite the concerns, the survey found officer-cadets generally felt safe on and around their military college campuses, but women who experienced unwanted sexual behaviour, were less likely to feel safe.