Reports of a dramatic increase in male-to-male sexual harassment in the Australian Army and Navy are a beat up, according to defence force officials. They say the reason more people are filing complaints reflects improved harassment reporting procedures.
On Tuesday The Australian published a story revealing that claims of male-to-male sexual harassment in the Australian Defence Force had quadrupled over a 12-month period and that the ADF was unable to deal with them.
The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, show that of the 122 claims of sexual harassment between 2002 and 2003, 51 were complaints by men against other men. The previous year there were only 12 reports of male-to-male sexual harassment.
The ADF’s director-general of Public Affairs, Brigadier Mike Hannan, told Sydney Star Observer there was nothing to suggest harassment was on the rise and media reports to the contrary were a beat up. He said servicemen and women were simply feeling more comfortable making reports.
Far from seeing the increase in numbers as a bad sign, we take them as a good sign, Hannan said.
What these figures tell us is that our programs are working. We’ve been able to get people highly aware of what constitutes harassment and to get them in a position where they’re prepared to make complaints.
And we see that as being an overwhelmingly positive thing.
Hannan admitted sexual harassment was a problem in the ADF, as it is in the wider community, but said they were doing their best to combat it. In 2002 they introduced new Equity Hotlines, where people can get confidential advice on harassment issues. He said all supervisors, managers and commanders are now trained in equity and diversity, with courses including Cultural Diversity At Work and Understanding Homosexuality.
A gay Navy serviceman who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity said he had no reason to believe male-to-male sexual harassment was on the rise, and agreed that better reporting procedures had caused the rise in claims.