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Anti-bullying week: Are our Armed Forces taking note?

This week marks National Anti-Bullying Week and the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) has made the week’s theme “make some noise about bullying”. Their aim is to empower people to speak up and take action against bullies, and we couldn’t agree more.

What is bullying?

Bullying is defined by the ABA as

  • the repetitive…
  •  intentional ….
  • hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where…
  • the relationship involves an imbalance of power”.

Bullying in the Forces

Bullying can be commonplace in many places of work, and the Armed Forces are no exception.

One example of this is “beasting”, a punishment involving harsh physical exercise, which still takes place in the military and is not under approved in military regulations. The death of soldier Gavin Williams in 2006, who suffered heart failure following beasting, highlights the possible dangers of this inhumane practice. An inquest into Gavin’s death is currently underway.

The tragic suicide of Anne-Marie Ellement, a Corporal in the Royal Military Police, raised serious concerns about the need to tackle bullying in the Armed Forces. Our Rhicha Kapila explored the issue further in her recent blog.

Speaking out

One major problem around bullying in the Forces is that victims are reluctant to report their experiences, because they were afraid this would make the bullying worse or affect their careers. This year the Army released its “Speak Out” sexual harassment report, which found only 2% of service men and 5% of service women were reporting upsetting experiences of sexual harassment.

New Army head General Sir Nicholas Carter has recently accepted the need to address bullying ad harassment within the Armed Forces. He has vowed to project a message of zero tolerance against prejudice within his institution.

Our Ahmed Al-Nahhas was interviewed by British Forces Television about Sir Carter’s campaign and the culture of bullying in the Army.

There are signs that the culture is starting to change, but this has been a very slow process.

This week the Armed Forces Code of Practice for Victims of Crime came into force, and aims to provide protection and support to victims of crimes, including bullying.

It is also encouraging to see servicemen make a stand by supporting LGBT activist group Stonewall’s anti-bullying campaign, #NoBystandders.

Hope for the future

We hope that these positive steps will help change the culture within the Armed Forces and protect victims of bullying and harassment, in whatever form it takes. Service personnel should be given the same rights and protection in the workplace as civilians.

Our military team regularly represents service personnel who have suffered bullying, harassment or discrimination. For more information, contact a specialist in our team.

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