Navy sex attack victim: Degrading women is part of the culture

by Kate Pereyra Garcia / 18 December, 2017

Former Navy sailor Hayley Young says the sexual harassment built up over time. Photo / Getty Images

Former navy sailor speaks out about sexual abuse in the armed forces: "It just really groomed me"

Former navy sailor Hayley Young has joined the growing group of women waiving name suppression in order to speak out against sexual abuse from those in the armed forces.

Ms Young said she was raped while on deployment in the United Kingdom.

She joined the Navy in 2008 and was on her first sea deployment on a Royal Navy ship six months later when the sexual harassment began.

"Just kind of lewd comments and stuff and then it built up to I would get propositioned for sex - the most I counted was six times in one day... then they took surveys of who wanted to have sex with me while I was in the room and unable to leave."

The comments progressed to being groped while walking up a ladder, and Ms Young said she lost track of what was acceptable behaviour and what wasn't.

"Just that constant degrading and objectifying of women.

"I was surprised, but it just really groomed me."

Near the end of her deployment, she was raped by a British sailor.

Ms Young said she didn't feel able to make a formal complaint.

"Saying something is just absolute career suicide ... and also the shame that goes with sexual assault is just so deeply personal I couldn't expose myself to that at the time."

Ms Young is clear that she never experienced physical assaults from New Zealand sailors, but she found the same culture here.

"The objectification and degrading of women still makes up the underlying culture. I still did get the odd comment from time to time and it just made me feel uneasy and I lived in constant fear."

It wasn't until she left the navy four years later that she felt able to speak out.

She wrote a formal letter outlining her concerns about the treatment of women.

Ms Young felt Navy leaders were taking the claims seriously until they used her photo on promotional material.

She complained that they had failed to provide her a safe working environment and the matter spiraled.

The case is currently before the High Court and part of it headed to the Court of Appeal.

"This could have been handled at such a low level," Ms Young said.

"I got a lawyer to help me and it ended up in court because they wouldn't meet with me."

The Defence Force declined to comment on this story due to the case being before the courts but said it last year launched a campaign to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour among staff.

Lawyer Frances Joychild QC was commissioned to write a report about the Defence Force's handling of sexual assault complaints and one victim says delays in releasing it are forcing women to re-live traumatic events.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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