Sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force, 2018

by Adam Cotter

Release date: May 22, 2019
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Highlights

Section 1: Sexual assault

  • In the 12 months prior to the 2018 survey, approximately 900 Regular Force members of the Canadian Armed Forces were victims of sexual assault (sexual attack, unwanted sexual touching, or sexual activity where unable to consent) in the military workplace or involving military members, representing 1.6% of all Regular Force members. This was not statistically different from 2016, when the survey was conducted for the first time.
  • Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault, reported by 1.4% of all Regular Force members.
  • As was the case in 2016, the prevalence of sexual assault among women in the Regular Force was about four times that among men (4.3% versus 1.1%).
  • In 2018, about half (52%) of all victims of sexual assault stated that a peer was the perpetrator, and this was the case for both men and women in the Regular Force. For women, this marked a change from 2016, when a supervisor or someone of higher rank was most commonly responsible.  
  • One in four (25%) Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted stated that someone in authority found out about the incident, while 57% said nobody in authority was aware and 17% were unsure. These proportions were unchanged from 2016.

Section 2: Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours

  • The majority (70%) of Regular Force members witnessed (saw or heard) or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the military workplace or involving military members in the 12 months prior to the survey. This was lower than in 2016 (80%), representing about 6,100 fewer members.
  • As was the case in 2016, the most common behaviours witnessed or experienced were sexual jokes (65%), inappropriate sexual comments (31%), and inappropriate discussion about sex life (28%).
  • A smaller proportion of Regular Force members reported being personally targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in 2018 (15%, down from 17% in 2016).
  • About three in ten (28%) women in the Regular Force experienced at least one type of targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, compared with 13% of men.
  • Reporting of instances of sexualized or discriminatory behaviours to someone in authority increased, from 26% in 2016 to 28% in 2018. This increase was due to a larger proportion of instances of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, discrimination based on sex, and unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations that came to the attention of someone in authority. 
  • About four in ten men and roughly half of women in the Regular Force who witnessed an instance of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour took action at least once. Regardless of gender and the type of behaviour witnessed, the most common action taken was talking to the person(s) responsible for the behaviour.

Section 3: Knowledge and perceptions of policies and responses to sexual misconduct

  • In 2018, 54% of women and 40% of men in the Regular Force agreed that inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the Canadian Armed Forces – proportions which have increased since 2016 (51% and 36%, respectively).
  • Virtually all (99.6%) Regular Force members were aware of Operation HONOUR, with the vast majority (96%) stating that they were very aware.
  • Close to half (45%) of Regular Force members felt that, so far, Operation HONOUR has been very or extremely effective, and 49% feel that it will be very or extremely effective moving forward. A minority (17%) felt that, to date, Operation HONOUR has been slightly effective or not effective at all.
  • The large majority of Regular Force members felt that complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour are (or would be) taken seriously in their current unit (94%), that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not tolerated in their unit (94%), and that the CAF currently works hard to create a workplace that prevents inappropriate sexual behaviour (93%).
  • Women in the Regular Force were twice as likely as men to state that sexually inappropriate behaviour was more common in the CAF than in Canadian society generally (25% versus 13%).
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Sexual misconduct, which encompasses a broad spectrum of behaviours ranging from inappropriate or unwanted jokes or comments to sexual assault, is a problem faced by many organizations. These behaviours, which generally tend to target or impact women more so than men, have also been the focus of global campaigns or movements, such as #MeToo, which have helped to bring greater attention and awareness to these behaviours. Another impact has been greater discussions around how best to prevent these behaviours and support those who have been victimized or affected – both inside and outside the workplace.

One such organization which has recognized and begun to address this issue is the Canadian military. Following an independent external review on sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) (Deschamps 2015), which found a sexualized culture that is hostile to many members – but in particular those who are women, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender— the CAF developed Operation HONOUR in August 2015 as a whole-of-service response. 

Operation HONOUR’s implementation has led to numerous changes in the CAF. For example, new types of training and education have been designed, implemented, and made available across the CAF, and many policy changes relating to diversity, harassment, and inappropriate sexual behaviour have been introduced for supervisors, victims, Military Police, the chain of command, and CAF members in general (Department of National Defence 2017). This process is still ongoing: a recent report by the Auditor General found several key areas where CAF could improve their delivery of services to those affected and adapt an approach that is more victim-centered, making recommendations that were accepted by the CAF and will be implemented moving forward (Office of the Auditor General of Canada 2018).

Another facet of Operation HONOUR was a commitment to collect reliable data on members’ experiences and perceptions of sexual misconduct in the military workplace. To that end, Statistics Canada was contracted to design and implement a voluntary survey of all active CAF members: the Survey of Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF).

Results from the first SSMCAF in 2016 found that 80% of current Regular Force members had witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, while 17% stated that they were personally targeted by these types of behaviours in the previous 12 months (Cotter 2016). Furthermore, 1.7% were victims of sexual assault committed in the military workplace or by another military member. In all three cases, the prevalence was higher among women than men, findings which are consistent with Canadian and international research and surveys in the military context, which have shown that women in male-dominated institutions tend to be at greater risk of such experiences (Castro et al. 2015; LeBlanc and Coulthard 2015; Office of People Analytics 2017).Note 

Results from the first administration of the SSMCAF were critical in determining the overall prevalence of sexual misconduct as well as establishing a baseline estimate to measure whether programs were effective in bringing about a change in the prevalence of certain behaviours and the perceptions of the culture in which they occurred. At the same time, it was also recognized that a one-time snapshot would not be sufficient and that regular and ongoing data collection would be essential in order to monitor progress and changes over time.

For that reason, active members of the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve were invited to participate in the second administration of the SSMCAF, which was collected from September to November 2018. The questionnaire included many of the same questions to allow for analysis of changes in the military workplace and in members’ experiences and perceptions since the first administration. Some key additions were also made – namely, questions on actions taken by those who witnessed other CAF members being targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour. In the second administration of the SSMCAF, additional questions on the effectiveness of Operation HONOUR were added. When the SSMCAF was first administered, Operation HONOUR had existed for just under one year.

This report focuses on findings from the Regular Force, with results analyzed by gender, environmental command, age, rank, and other factors, wherever possible.Note  In all, responses were received from more than 36,000 active members of the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve. These responses were weighted so as to represent the entire population of active Regular Force members (approximately 56,000) and Primary Reservists (approximately 27,600) (see Methodology and data sources). It is worth noting that, as was the case with the 2016 survey, the findings presented in this report represent only the perceptions and experiences of active Regular Force membersNote  and do not include members who have left the CAF for any reason.

For information on Primary Reserve members, see Sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserve, 2018 (Burczycka 2019).

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Measuring sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces

Sexual misconduct, as defined by the Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF), comprises sexual assault, inappropriate sexualized behaviours, and discriminatory behaviours on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Sexual assault

The Criminal Code considers a broad range of experiences, ranging from unwanted sexual touching to sexual violence resulting in maiming, wounding, or endangering the life of the victim, as sexual assault (Criminal Code 1985; Rotenberg 2017). As is the case in several other Statistics Canada surveys, estimates of sexual assault are derived through three questions in the SSMCAF (see Text box 1 table).

The incidents captured by the SSMCAF were those which occurred within the military workplace, outside the military workplace but involving military members, DND civilians, or DND contractors, or incidents involving family members or dating partners who were also CAF members, DND civilians, or DND contractors.

Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours

The SSMCAF asked participants about whether or not they had witnessed (i.e., seen or heard) or had been the target of a range of behaviours (15 in total). These behaviours fall into five broad categories (see Text box 1 table) which, along with sexual assault, are defined as sexual misconduct. With some minor changes in terminology, these were also the questions used in 2016 for the first cycle of the SSMCAF.


Text table 1
Behaviours included in the definition of sexual misconduct
Table summary
This table displays the results of Behaviours included in the definition of sexual misconduct. The information is grouped by Theme (appearing as row headers), Categories and Questionnaire items (appearing as column headers).
Theme Categories Questionnaire items
Sexual assault Sexual attack Forced or attempted to force into any unwanted sexual activity, by threatening, holding down, or hurting in some way
Unwanted sexual touching Touched against your will in any sexual way, including unwanted touching or grabbing, kissing, or fondling
Sexual activity where unable to consent Subjected to a sexual activity to which you were not able to consent, including being drugged, intoxicated, manipulated, or forced in ways other than physically
Sexualized behaviours Inappropriate verbal or non-verbal sexual communication Sexual jokes
Unwanted sexual attention
Inappropriate sexual comments
Inappropriate discussion about sex life
Sexually explicit materials Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit materials
Taking and/or posting inappropriate or sexually suggestive photos or videos of any CAF members without consent
Physical contact or suggested sexual relations Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relationships
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close
Being offered workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activity or being mistreated for not engaging in sexual activity
Discriminatory behaviours (on basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity) Discrimination on the basis of sex Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or that a woman does not act like a woman is supposed to actText table Note 1
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex
Comments that people are either not good at a particular job or should be prevented from having a particular job because of their sex
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are (or are assumed to be) transText table Note 2

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Key concepts for the Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces

Regular Force and Primary Reserve 

The analysis in this report focuses on Regular Force members. Members of the Regular Force serve Canada on a full-time basis. Unlike the Regular Force, the Primary Reserve is composed of predominantly part-time members who serve in community level units located throughout Canada and may consent to serve full-time for a range of employment within the Canadian Armed Forces, including operations for periods ranging from weeks to years. This may include full-time employment for non-operational roles, such as training or support to an operational unit (Class B), or full-time deployment on domestic or international operations (Class C). Some comparisons with the Primary Reserve are included in this report; for detailed analysis, see Burczycka (2019).

Ranks

For the purposes of this survey, four groupings of rank within the Canadian Armed Forces are explored. From lowest ranking group to highest ranking group, these are Junior Non-Commissioned Members (for example, Private, Aviator, Corporal); Senior Non-Commissioned Members (for example, Sergeant, Petty Officer, or Warrant Officer); Junior Officers (for example, Lieutenant or Captain); and Senior Officers (for example, Major or Colonel).

Military workplace

For the purposes of this survey, the military workplace was defined as anywhere on a base, wing, or ship, including barracks and messes, as well as deployments, temporary duty or attached posting, and training courses. The military workplace also included sanctioned events (events approved by the Chain of Command or someone in authority within a unit), such as parades, mess dinners, unit parties, unit sports activities, adventure training, or course parties. It should be noted that, in the military context, the notion of workplace and work time is often less rigidly or easily separated from non-work than it is in the civilian context (Gidycz et al. 2018).

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Section 1: Sexual assault

Sexual assault more prevalent among women in the Regular Force

While the Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF) asks about a continuum of behaviours, ranging from sexual jokes to sexual assault, sexual assault is the most serious behaviour examined in the survey and in general is one of the most serious violent crimes. Respondents were asked if, in the 12 months preceding the survey, they had been sexually attacked, experienced unwanted sexual touching, or had been subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent in the military workplace or involving military members (Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or foreign), Department of National Defence (DND) civilians, or contractors.

Overall, in 2018, 900 Regular Force members, or 1.6%, stated that they were victims of sexual assault in the military workplace or involving military members in the 12 months preceding the survey. This was not statistically different from 2016 (1.7%) (Chart 1).Note Note 

Chart 1 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months, by gender, 2016 and 2018

Data table for Chart 1

Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Women, Men and Total, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Women MenData table Note  TotalData table Note 1
percent
2016 4.8Note * 1.2 1.7
2018 4.3Note * 1.1 1.6

As is the case among the general population, and as was found by the first cycle of the SSMCAF, the prevalence of sexual assault was higher among women than among men (Table 1). Approximately 340 women were sexually assaulted in the 12 months preceding the survey, representing 4.3% of all women in the Regular Force. This proportion was not statistically different from 2016 (4.8%). Among men in the Regular Force, 1.1% reported that they had been sexually assaulted in the military workplace in the past 12 months, similar to 2016 (1.2%).Note 

Unwanted sexual touching most common form of sexual assault

Reflecting what was seen in the 2016 SSMCAF, and what is generally found in other Canadian surveys outside of the military contextNote , the most common type of sexual assault experienced by Regular Force members was unwanted sexual touching (1.4%, or 88% of incidents). Sexual attacks (0.2%) and sexual activity where unable to consent (0.2%) were comparatively less common (Table 1). Again, these proportions were not statistically different from 2016.

The prevalence of sexual assault was higher among Primary Reserve members than it was among Regular Force members (2.2% versus 1.6%). That said, similar trends were evident in that the proportion of Primary Reservists who were sexually assaulted was unchanged from 2016, unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault, and women were more likely to have been victims than were men (7% versus 1%). For more information on sexual assault among Primary Reservists, see Burczycka (2019).

Sexual assault more prevalent among Indigenous members, persons with disabilities, younger members

In addition to the differences noted between men and women, many other characteristics were associated with a higher prevalence of sexual assault (Table 2). Of note, 3.0% of Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit)Note  members and 3.0% of members with disabilities had been sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months, about twice the prevalence among non-Indigenous members (1.5%) or members without disabilities (1.5%).  

In addition, prevalence decreased with age, with 3.9% of those 24 years of age or younger having been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months, declining to less than one percent of Regular Force members who were 45 to 49 years old (0.8%) or 50 years of age and older (0.6%).

For the most part, these findings align with what is seen among the general population, where younger Canadians, Indigenous persons, and persons with disabilities are all at higher risk of sexual assault (Conroy and Cotter 2017). These findings also reflect what was found in the 2016 SSMCAF (Cotter 2016).

Prevalence of sexual assault declined among certain groups

There were changes in prevalence among certain populations, when compared with 2016. Declines were noted among several specific groups of women: Senior Non-Commissioned Members, members serving in the Military Personnel Command, non-Indigenous members, non-visible minorities, and persons without disabilities.

In contrast, the most notable increase was among women aged 24 and younger, where the proportion who had been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months rose from 10% in 2016 to 15% in 2018.

Among men who were sexually assaulted, the only changes since 2016 were a slight increase in the number of Senior Non-Commissioned Members (from 0.5% to 0.7%) and a decline among those aged 25 to 29 years (from 2.1% to 1.6%).

Little change in characteristics of perpetrators of sexual assault

Just as the overall prevalence of sexual assault did not change between 2016 and 2018, the characteristics of the perpetrators of sexual assaults against Regular Force members did not differ considerably in 2018 when compared to 2016. As was the case in 2016, the majority of victims indicated that the perpetrators were members of the CAF, typically acting alone, and more commonly men and Junior Non-Commissioned Members (Table 3).

Nine in ten (91%) perpetrators were CAF members, regardless of the gender of the victim. Relatively smaller proportions were Department of National Defence (DND) civilians or contractors (8%) or foreign military members (6%E).Note 

There was an increase in the proportion of incidents involving a lone perpetrator (from 71% to 79%). This increase was noted among both women and men, though the increase was larger among men (from 61% to 73%, compared to 85% to 90% among women). That said, women remained more likely to have been assaulted by a perpetrator acting alone.

While overall two-thirds (66%) of victims said that the perpetrators were always men – and a further 11% of victims stated that their assault involved both male and female perpetrators – there was a considerable divide depending on the gender of the victim. Half (49%) of men who were victims reported that their assailant was a man; however, this was the case for 94% of women. One in three (34%) men who were victims stated the perpetrator was a woman.Note  These findings are similar to what was observed in 2016.

Sexual assaults committed against women by a superior decline

Just over half (52%) of all Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted stated that the person responsible was a peer, the most common relationship cited by both men (54%) and women (47%) who were victims.Note 

Similar proportions of women and men in the Regular Force stated that a supervisor or someone of higher rank was the perpetrator (38% and 34%, respectively). This marked a notable difference from 2016, when the most common perpetrator-victim relationship among women was a supervisor or someone of a higher rank, cited by half (49%) of those who were sexually assaulted. There were 130 women in the Regular Force who were sexually assaulted by a supervisor or someone of a higher rank in 2018, down from 180 in 2016. The proportion of men citing a supervisor or someone of a higher rank as the perpetrator was unchanged.

Overall, about one in five victims stated that a subordinate (inside or outside the chain of command) was a perpetrator. This was slightly more common among men (22%) than women (16%).

Military base, wing, or formation most common location of sexual assault

In total, 87% of Regular Force members who had been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months stated that at least one incident took place in the military workplace. This was the case for 88% of Regular Force members who experienced unwanted sexual touching, 80% who were sexually attacked, and 74% who were subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent.

More specifically, 55% of victims stated that an incident occurred on a military base, wing, or formation. The next most common locations identified by victims were the mess (18%), barracks or single quarters (13%), or on a ship at sea or in port (12%).

Almost four in ten (37%) victims stated that at least one incident of sexual assault took place outside of the military workplace but involved other military members. Roughly half of Regular Force members who were sexually attacked (54%) or were subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent (49%) stated that this was the case, compared with about 35% of those who experienced unwanted sexual touching.

About half (47%) of women who were sexually assaulted believed that the sexual assault was related to the perpetrator’s alcohol or drug useNote , compared with one-third (33%) of men. Furthermore, 18% of women and 16% of men said that they did not know if their sexual assault was related to the perpetrator’s alcohol or drug use, proportions that were not significantly different.

About four in ten Regular Force members who were sexually attacked (41%) or experienced unwanted sexual touching (36%) believed the perpetrator’s alcohol or drug use was a factor in the assault, as did almost half (47%) of those who were subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent.

One in four victims reported a sexual assault to someone in authority, unchanged from 2016

Overall, 25% of all Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted in the workplace brought it to the attention of someone in authority, while 57% did not report it to anyone in authority and 17% were unsure if anyone in authority found out about the incident(s) in any way. These proportions were unchanged from 2016.

As was the case in 2016, women who were victims were more likely to report at least one incident of sexual assault to someone in authority than were men (34% versus 19%). Compared with 2016, there were no changes in the proportion of women or men who stated that incidents were brought to the attention of someone in authority.  

Sexual attacks were most likely to have been reported to someone in authority, with 37% of victims of a sexual attack having done so. Unwanted sexual touching (24%) and sexual activity where unable to consent (18%E) were less frequently brought to the attention of someone in authority. These proportions were not statistically different from what was found in 2016 (35%, 21%, and 21%, respectively).

The 12-month reference period covered by the SSMCAF likely has an influence on the prevalence of reporting sexual assault to someone in authority. Among the general population, victims of sexual assault are more likely than victims of other types of violent crime to delay reporting their victimization to police, sometimes for periods of over one year (Rotenberg 2017).  

Sexual assault most commonly reported to military supervisor

The most common authority figure to have been made aware of a sexual assault was the victim’s military supervisor, identified by about one in five (22%) Regular Force members who were victims. A military member other than the victim’s supervisor but within the chain of command was the next most common (13%). About one in ten (9%) Regular Force members stated that at least one incident came to the attention of the Military Police or the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS).Note  The proportion of women who said that the Military Police or CFNIS found out about their assault was about twice that of men (13% versus 6%E). These proportions are consistent with what was seen in 2016.

Of those who reported to the Military Police or CFNIS, 44% were satisfied with the actions taken, while this was the case for 40% of those who reported to someone in authority other than the Military Police or CFNIS. While in both cases this represents a relatively small subset of Regular Force members, these proportions were not statistically different from 2016.  

Women more likely to cite fear or concerns with the formal complaint process as reasons for not reporting

Of those who did not report their sexual assault to anyone in authority, the most common reason for not doing so was that they resolved it on their own, cited by four in ten victims (42% of women and 44% of men) (Chart 2). Having resolved the issue on their own was also the most common reason provided by Primary Reservists who did not report their sexual assault (45%) (Burczycka 2019).

Chart 2 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months, by gender and reasons for not reporting to someone in authority, 2018

Data table for Chart 2

Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Reason for not reporting to someone in authority (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Reason for not reporting to someone in authority Women MenData table Note 
percent
Resolved on my own 42 44
Not serious enough 16Note * 38
Did not believe it would make a difference 32Note * 23
Behaviour stopped 28 31
Afraid of negative consequences 37Note * 19
Concerns about formal complaint process 26Note * 16
Unsure how 11Note E: Use with caution Note F: too unreliable to be published
Person(s) responsible changed jobs 11Note E: Use with caution Note F: too unreliable to be published
Other 15 22

Women in the Regular Force were more likely than men to cite fear of negative consequences (37% versus 19%), a belief that reporting would not make a difference (32% versus 23%), and concerns about the formal complaint process (26% versus 16%) as reasons for not reporting sexual assault. On the other hand, men were more likely to state that the behaviour was not serious enough to warrant reporting (38% versus 16% of women). About three in ten women and men who were sexually assaulted did not report to anyone in authority because the behaviour stopped.

One in five (20%) victims of sexual assault cited concerns about the formal complaint process as a reason for not reporting their sexual assault, nearly double the proportion in 2016 (11%). Both women (26% in 2018 versus 18% in 2016) and men (16% in 2018 versus 7% in 2016) were more likely to cite these concerns. Victims of sexual assault in the Regular Force were also more likely to state that they did not report because the behaviour stopped (29%), that they were unsure how to report (7%E), or that the person(s) responsible changed jobs (6%) in 2018 than they were in 2016 (23%, 3%E, and 3%E, respectively).

Negative impacts more common among women than men 

Not only is the prevalence of sexual assault higher among women in the Regular Force, the nature of sexual assault is also different in several ways. One way in which this can be seen is when looking at the negative consequences or changes to daily life reported by victims after being assaulted. Close to nine in ten (88%) women who were sexually assaulted experienced negative impacts, compared to about half (52%) of men who were victims (Table 4).

Avoiding certain people or locations was a relatively common negative impact of sexual assault among Regular Force members. For all victims, the most common impact was avoiding or wanting to avoid specific people at work, though the proportion was nearly twice as high among women (74% and 40%) (Chart 3). Avoiding specific locations (53% of women and 25% of men), optional work-related social functions (49% and 28%), the mess (44% and 22%), or the gym (27% and 15%) were also cited as impacts.

Chart 3 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months, by gender and impacts of incidents, 2018

Data table for Chart 3

Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Impact of incidents (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent who sometimes or always experienced these impacts units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Impact of incidents Women MenData table Note 
percent who sometimes or always experienced these impacts
Avoided or wanted to avoid specific people at work 74Note * 40
Negative emotional impacts (i.e., feelings of depression,
anxiety, fear, or anger)
66Note * 33
Negative impacts on personal or social life 61Note * 25
Stayed or wanted to stay away from specific locations on
the base, wing, or formation
53Note * 25
Avoided optional work-related social functions 49Note * 28
Avoided or wanted to avoid the mess 44Note * 22
Difficulty sleeping 44Note * 20
Loss of trust in unit 39Note * 23
Loss of trust in chain of command 38Note * 24
Stayed or wanted to stay away from the gym on the base,
wing, or formation
27Note * 15
Missed work or worked fewer hours (i.e., left early or arrived later) 24Note * 14

In addition, women were twice as likely to experience negative emotional impacts such as depression, anxiety, fear, or anger, when compared to men who were sexually assaulted (66% versus 33%). Negative impacts on personal or social life were also more commonly experienced by women than by men (61% versus 25%).

Further, four in ten women who were sexually assaulted lost trust in their unit (39%) or chain of command (38%) as a result, compared with about one-quarter of men (23% and 24%, respectively).

The higher proportion of women having experienced negative impacts or having altered their behaviour as a result of their victimization could be a reflection of the severity of sexual assaults against women, as sexual attacks and sexual activity where unable to consent were considerably higher among women. In addition, women who were sexually assaulted were more likely than men to have experienced multiple types or multiple instances of sexual assault.

Most victims of sexual assault did not consult services

In all, the majority (84%) of Regular Force members stated that, in at least one instance, they did not consult services following their sexual assault, whether these services were provided by the CAF or in the general community. While 91% of men did not use or consult any services, this was the case for 74% of women who were sexually assaulted.

Those who consulted services were more likely to consult or use CAF services (15%) as opposed to civilian services (7%). Women were more likely than men to have consulted both CAF services (25% versus 8%E) and civilian services (9% versus 5%E). This reflects other findings which suggest that, in general, a minority of victims of sexual assault consult formal services, and that men are less likely than women to consult or use services (Conroy and Cotter 2017).

Those who consulted CAF services most commonly used or consulted CAF mental health services (11%), CAF medical services (5%), a CAF chaplain (4%E), or the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (4%E). More specifically, of women who were sexually assaulted, 21% used or consulted CAF mental health services and 9%E used or consulted CAF medical services.Note 

Compared with 2016, victims of sexual assault in the Regular Force were equally likely to have consulted CAF-provided services or to not have used or contacted services at all. In contrast, the percentage of victims of sexual assault who consulted a civilian service increased, from 4% to 7%.

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Developments since the first Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is not the only organization or sector of Canadian society facing the problem of sexual misconduct or inappropriate sexualized behaviour. Indeed, while the 2016 Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF) was the first Statistics Canada survey dedicated to measuring the continuum of sexualized behaviours and their impacts, several other questionnaires have been developed since its completion.

Furthermore, the SSMCAF questions used to measure the prevalence and perceptions of sexualized behaviour have been adapted for use in other general population surveys. For example, the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS)Note  adapted many of the questions about culture and behaviour for the purposes of asking Canadians if, and how frequently, they have encountered sexualized behaviours which made them feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the course of their daily lives.

Additionally, the content and design of the SSMCAF have been instrumental in the development of two other, more focused questionnaires: one measuring the experiences of individuals at post-secondary institutions (Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population), including the Royal Military College of Canada, and the other dedicated to taking a more in-depth look at the experiences of Canadians in their workplaces.

Beyond work related to data collection, there have been other important developments since 2016. For example, as was the case among many civilian police services, the Military Police also committed to a review of their sexual assault files following national attention on police use of the “unfounded” category to classify sexual assaults (Doolittle 2017; Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics 2018; Department of National Defence 2018a). From 2010 to 2016, one in four (24%) sexual assaults investigated by the Military Police were classified as unfounded (Department of National Defence 2018a). Canadian police in general classified 19% of sexual assaults in 2016 and 14% in 2017 as unfounded (Greenland and Cotter 2018). 

The Military Police ultimately reviewed 179 sexual assault cases from 2010 to 2016 which had initially been classified as unfounded; of these, 113 remained unfounded, 43 had been misclassified, and 23 were flagged for further investigation (Department of National Defence 2018a). In addition to this review, a Sexual Assault Review Program, which will allow external professionals and experts access to files in cases deemed unfounded, is being established in order to ensure all investigations are conducted properly in an open and transparent manner (Department of National Defence 2018a).

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Section 2: Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours

Understanding the broader culture within which sexual assault occurs is critical. Behaviours that are sexual in nature or comments that are discriminatory on the basis of sex, gender, or gender identity can contribute to an environment where not all members feel safe or comfortable. For that reason, the SSMCAF also asked members about their experiences of a range of behaviours – behaviours that, unlike sexual assault, may not meet the criminal threshold but nonetheless can have considerable impacts on those who witness or experience them. These behaviours also exist on a continuum of potential harm for those who are affected – and can contribute to an environment in which behaviours can escalate (Sadler et al. 2018). Regular Force members who personally experienced one or more of these behaviours reported a higher prevalence of sexual assault in the 12 months preceding the survey than those who did not (7.4% versus 0.4%).

As was the case in the first cycle of the SSMCAF, members were asked about ten types of sexualized behaviours and five types of discriminatory behaviour, analyzed separately as well as broadly in the following five categories: inappropriate verbal and non-verbal communicationNote , behaviours involving sexually explicit materialsNote , unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relationsNote , discrimination on the basis of sex or genderNote  and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identityNote . The following section explores Regular Force members’ experiences of witnessing (i.e., seeing or hearing) or being personally targeted by these behaviours in the previous 12 months and examines shifts since the first cycle in 2016.

Fewer Regular Force members witnessed sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in 2018

Compared to 2016, the proportion of Regular Force members who witnessed all types of sexual misconduct measured by the survey was lower in 2018 (Chart 4). On the whole, 70% of Regular Force members witnessed or experienced at least one form of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, down ten percentage points from 2016 (80%). This represented about 6,100 fewer members witnessing at least one behaviour across the Regular Force (from 45,280 members in 2016 to 39,150 in 2018).

Chart 4 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by types of behaviour, 2016 and 2018

Data table for Chart 4

Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Types of behaviour (appearing as row headers), 2018 and 2016, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Types of behaviour 2018 2016Data table Note 
percent
Sexual jokes 65Note * 76
Inappropriate sexual comments 31Note * 39
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 28Note * 34
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to actData table Note 1 18Note * 22
Unwanted sexual attention 14Note * 18
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 13Note * 18
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 12Note * 13
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 10Note * 11
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 9Note * 10
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 5Note * 8
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 5Note * 7
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, transData table Note 1 4Note * 5
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 3Note * 4
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 2 2Note * 3
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 3 1Note * 2

Declines in witnessing behaviours were noted among each of the 15 types of behaviour measured by the survey, with the most common types of behaviours witnessed by Regular Force members being those that were also most common in 2016: sexual jokes (65%), inappropriate sexual comments (31%), and inappropriate discussion about sex life (28%).

One-quarter (26%) of Regular Force members witnessed or experienced discriminatory comments on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The most common types of discrimination seen, heard, or experienced were suggestions that a man doesn't act like a man is supposed to act or a woman doesn't act like a woman is supposed to act (18%) and comments that people are not good at a particular job or should be prevented from having a particular job because of their sex (13%).

The behaviours most likely to be witnessed or experienced by Regular Force members were also those behaviours that were more commonly witnessed or experienced multiple times (Chart 5). One-quarter (26%) of Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexual jokes stated that there were 10 or more instances. That said, while sexual jokes were much more likely than any other type of behaviour to have been seen, heard, or experienced that frequently, this proportion was much lower than in 2016, when almost half (46%) of Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexual jokes stated they occurred 10 or more times.

Chart 5 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by types of behaviour and frequency, 2018

Data table for Chart 5

Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Type of behaviour (appearing as row headers), 1 time, 2 to 4 times, 5 to 9 times and 10 or more times, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of behaviour 1 time 2 to 4 times 5 to 9 times 10 or more times
percent
Sexual jokes 8.4 22.5 8.5 26.0
Inappropriate sexual comments 8.3 13.3 3.6 5.5
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 7.6 11.3 3.3 5.5
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to actData table Note 1 5.2 7.6 1.8 2.9
Unwanted sexual attention 4.7 5.6 1.3 1.9
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 5.0 5.6 1.1 1.8
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 3.7 4.2 1.2 2.4
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 3.6 3.6 1.0 1.5
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 3.7 3.7 0.7 1.0
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 2.4 1.8 0.5 0.8
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 2.1 1.7 0.3 0.6
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, transData table Note 1 1.8 1.4 0.3 0.6
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 1.3 1.1 0.3 0.4
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 2 1.0 0.7 0.1 0.3
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 3 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.3

Among Primary Reservists, a similar trend was noted. Just over seven in ten (71%) witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in 2018, down from eight in ten (82%) in 2016 (Burczycka 2019). While these proportions are similar to what was seen among Regular Force members, direct comparisons are difficult given how different the service environments are between Regular Force members and Reservists.

Women more likely to witness or experience sexualized or discriminatory behaviours than men

As was the case in 2016, women in the Regular Force were more likely than men to have witnessed sexualized or discriminatory behaviours. In 2018, 75% of women and 70% of men in the Regular Force witnessed at least one type of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, down from 84% and 79%, respectively (Table 5). Likewise, three-quarters (76%) of gender diverseNote  Regular Force members witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, though this was not statistically different from the estimate for women or men.

Regardless of gender, inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication was the most common form of behaviour witnessed or experienced, reported by about seven in ten Regular Force members, though the prevalence was slightly higher among women. In contrast, men were slightly more likely than women to have witnessed or experienced behaviours related to sexually explicit materials. Of note, however, the prevalence was almost three times higher among gender diverse members. Women and gender diverse members also more frequently witnessed or experienced unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations and behaviours related to discrimination (Chart 6).

Chart 6 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours, by gender and category of behaviour, 2018

Data table for Chart 6

Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6. The information is grouped by Category of behaviour (appearing as row headers), Women, Men and Gender diverse, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Category of behaviour Women MenData table Note  Gender diverse
percent
Inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication 71Note * 68 66
Sexually explicit materials 11Note * 12 31Note *
Physical contact or suggested sexual
relations
23Note * 11 29Note *
Discrimination on the basis of sex 38Note * 23 40Note *
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity 12Note * 6 26Note *

More specifically, for 13 of the 15 behaviours measured by the SSMCAF, women were more likely than men to have witnessed or experienced them (Table 5).Note  The exceptions were displaying, showing or sending sexually explicit materials or messages, more commonly witnessed or experienced by men, and indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts, which was equally likely to be witnessed or experienced by women and men.

Younger, lower-ranking Regular Force members more likely to have witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour

In addition to differences by gender, many other characteristics were associated with the likelihood of having seen, heard, or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours (Table 6). For example, while about three-quarters of members 34 years of age and younger saw, heard, or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the workplace in the past 12 months, this was the case for about six in ten (59%) members aged 50 and older. Junior Non-Commissioned Members (73%) were equally likely as Junior Officers (74%) to have witnessed or experienced at least one behaviour, and more likely than were Senior Non-Commissioned Members (66%) or Senior Officers (65%).

Discriminatory behaviours considered offensive by a greater proportion of Regular Force members

Though sexual jokes were by far the most common behaviour, they were least likely to be considered offensive by Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced them. In general, the behaviours less frequently witnessed or experienced were more often considered offensive (Chart 7). As was the case in 2016, a larger proportion of Regular Force members also stated that discriminatory behaviours were offensive when compared to sexualized behaviors. More than six in ten members believed that mistreatment due to sex, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and discrimination on the basis of gender identity were somewhat or very offensive. 

Chart 7 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by types of behaviour and perceived offensiveness, 2018

Data table for Chart 7

Data table for Chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 7. The information is grouped by Types of behaviour (appearing as row headers), Witnessed or experienced behaviour and Believed that behaviour was offensive, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Types of behaviour Witnessed or experienced behaviour Believed that behaviour was offensiveData table Note 1
percent
Sexual jokes 65 11
Inappropriate sexual comments 31 36
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 28 27
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to act 18 39
Unwanted sexual attention 14 38
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 13 52
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 12 29
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 10 67
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 9 48
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 5 65
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 5 35
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, trans 4 63
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 3 56
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 2 2 48
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 3 1 49

For each of the 15 behaviours measured, women who had witnessed or experienced them were more likely to perceive them as offensive when compared to men (Chart 8). The largest gaps between women and men were seen when it came to sexually explicit materials (52% of women considered this behaviour to be offensive compared with 26% of men), offering workplace benefits in exchange for sexual activity (83% of women and 42% of men), indecent exposure (60% of women and 31% of men), and insulting, mistreating, ignoring, or excluding someone because of their sex (63% of women and 33% of men).  

Chart 8 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who witnessed or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months and perceived it to be offensive, by gender and types of behaviour, 2018

Data table for Chart 8 
Data table for Chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 8. The information is grouped by Types of behaviour (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Types of behaviour Women MenData table Note 
percent
Sexual jokes 17Note * 9
Inappropriate sexual comments 52Note * 33
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 40Note * 24
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to act 63Note * 33
Unwanted sexual attention 52Note * 34
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 76Note * 44
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 52Note * 26
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 81Note * 61
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 64Note * 41
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 79Note * 60
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 60Note * 31
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, trans 80Note * 57
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 75Note * 46
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 1 69Note * 44
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 2 83Note * 42

The proportion of Regular Force members who considered certain behaviours offensive increased for the majority of behaviours measured between 2016 and 2018.Note  For instance, while 47% of Regular Force members in 2016 stated that repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations was offensive, this was the case for 56% in 2018. Other behaviours to see large increases in terms of the proportion considering them to be offensive were the taking or posting of inappropriate or sexually suggestive photos or videos of CAF members (from 42% to 48%) and unwanted sexual attention (from 32% to 38%). Notably, the proportion of members who considered each of the five discriminatory behaviours measured to be offensive increased between 2016 and 2018.

Overall, fewer Regular Force members personally experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour or discrimination

In addition to asking about behaviours that were seen or heard in the military workplace or involving military members, the SSMCAF also asked respondents who had witnessed any behaviours if they were personally targeted in any of these instances. While the majority of Regular Force members had witnessed some sort of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months, a smaller proportion had personally experienced any of these behaviours (Table 7). In 2018, just under 8,400 Regular Force members, or 15%, stated that they had been personally targeted by at least one sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months.  

As with seeing or hearing behaviours, there was a significant decline in the proportion of members who had been personally targeted: the 15% recorded in 2018 was two percentage points lower than in 2016 (17%). This decline represented about 870 fewer members targeted.

Being sent or shown sexually explicit materials or messages, being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded due to sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relationships, or being offered benefits in exchange for sexual activity or being mistreated for not engaging in sexual activity were all experienced by similar proportions of Regular Force members in 2016 and 2018 (Chart 9). All other behaviours measured by the survey saw declines in the proportion of members personally targeted.

Chart 9 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by types of behaviour, 2016 and 2018

Data table for Chart 9

Data table for Chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 9. The information is grouped by Types of behaviour (appearing as row headers), 2018 and 2016, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Types of behaviour 2018 2016Data table Note 
percent
Sexual jokes 10.6Note * 12.8
Inappropriate sexual comments 4.2Note * 5.2
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 5.1Note * 6.4
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to actData table Note 1 3.4Note * 3.9
Unwanted sexual attention 3.1Note * 3.8
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 1.9Note * 2.1
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 2.2 2.4
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 2.2 2.3
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 3.7Note * 4.1
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 0.6 0.7
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 1.0Note * 1.4
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, transData table Note 1 0.2 0.2
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 1.2 1.1
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 2 0.2Note * 0.3
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 3 0.2 0.3

Of note, the declines in personally targeted behaviours tended to occur among those behaviours reflective of the general workplace culture, such as sexual jokes or inappropriate comments that are more likely to be perpetrated by groups or by peers. This could be influenced by part of Operation HONOUR’s mandate, which involved new training and workshops focused on identifying and preventing inappropriate behaviours in the workplace (Department of National Defence 2017). On the other hand, the Auditor General’s report on Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces also found that, according to some members, certain inappropriate comments or behaviours are avoided in situations that are more public or where they believe their behaviour could be monitored, while they may continue to occur in more private settings or among members considered to be “like-minded” (Office of the Auditor General of Canada 2018).

That said, and as noted previously, these comparatively less serious behaviours can nonetheless lead to a culture in which behaviours can escalate (Klein & Gallus 2018). A focus on the reduction of these types of behaviours can therefore be a proactive approach to effecting change (Sadler et al. 2018; Klein & Gallus 2018).

Notably, these behaviours that declined also tended to be the ones considered offensive by a lower proportion of members who witnessed them. In contrast, the behaviours that did not decrease were those that were relatively rarer, but were more likely to be considered offensive and less often involved multiple persons responsible.

Prevalence of all behaviours remains higher among women in the Regular Force

Both women and men in the Regular Force saw declines in the proportion who were personally targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour. For women, 28% had been personally targeted by a sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the military workplace or involving military members in the past 12 months, down from 31% in 2016. Likewise, 13% of men in the Regular Force experienced sexualized behaviour or discrimination in the past 12 months, down from 15% in 2016.

Both women and men saw decreases in most of the categories of behaviours measured. Among women, the prevalence of unwanted physical contact or sexual relations as a whole remained stable as repeated pressure from the same person for dates or relationships and offering workplace benefits in exchange for sex or mistreating someone for not engaging in sexual activity did not change. Among men, the proportion of those personally targeted by sexually explicit materials did not change (2% in both 2016 and 2018). Neither women nor men saw decreases in the proportion who were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

While both women and men saw similar declines compared with 2016, it should be noted that for each of the 15 behaviours measured by the SSMCAF, the prevalence remained higher among women (Chart 10). Women in the Regular Force were especially more likely than men to have had comments directed at them that they are not good at a particular job or should be prevented from having a particular job because of their sex (9% of women versus 1% of men), to have experienced repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relationships (6% versus 0.4%), to have been insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex (10% versus 1%), or to have received unwanted sexual attention (12% versus 2%).

Chart 10 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by gender and type of behaviour, 2018

Data table for Chart 10

Data table for Chart 10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 10. The information is grouped by Types of behaviour (appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Types of behaviour Women MenData table Note 
percent
Sexual jokes 14.4Note * 9.8
Inappropriate sexual comments 10.1Note * 3.1
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 10.5Note * 4.1
Suggestions that a man does not act like a man is supposed to act or a woman does not act like woman is supposed to actData table Note 1 8.9Note * 2.5
Unwanted sexual attention 11.6Note * 1.6
Comments that people are not good at a job or should be prevented from having a job because they are a man or a woman 9.1Note * 0.7
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 2.8Note * 2.1
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex 10.1Note * 0.9
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 12.2Note * 2.2
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 1.6Note * 0.4
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 1.4Note * 0.9
Someone being insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because they are, or are assumed to be, transData table Note 1 0.4Note E: Use with cautionNote * 0.1Note E: Use with caution
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations 5.6Note * 0.4
Sexually suggestive photos or videos, without consentData table Note 2 0.4Note * 0.1
Offering workplace benefits for engaging in sexual activityData table Note 3 0.9Note * 0.1Note E: Use with caution

While comparatively rare, the proportion of women who were offered workplace benefits in exchange for sex, or who were mistreated because they did not engage in sexual activity, was significantly higher than that of men in the Regular Force (0.9% and 0.1%E, respectively). This was similar to what was found in 2016 (0.9% and 0.2%, respectively).

One in five members under age 30 personally targeted in the past year

As was the case with sexual assault, younger Regular Force members were more likely to have been personally targeted by at least one sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the military workplace in the past 12 months (Table 8). About one in five Regular Force members 24 years of age or younger (21%) or aged 25 to 29 (22%) were targeted in the past 12 months, about three times the proportion of those 50 years of age and older (7%).

In 2018, the proportion of Indigenous members who were targeted did not statistically differ from that of non-Indigenous members, unlike in 2016 when the prevalence was higher among Indigenous members (Cotter 2016). As was found in 2016, in 2018 a larger proportion of members with disabilities were personally targeted at least once when compared to members without disabilities. The prevalence among visible minority members and non-visible minority members was similar in both 2016 and 2018.

Persons responsible differed considerably depending on type of behaviour

The number of persons responsible, and their relationship to the targeted member, were quite different depending on the type of behaviour (Table 9A; Table 9B). The behaviours that were, in general, the most common – and least likely to be perceived as offensive – were more likely to involve multiple persons as responsible. Fewer than one in five (16%) Regular Force members targeted by sexual jokes said that a lone person was responsible. Likewise, other behaviours such as inappropriate discussion about sex life (24%) and inappropriate sexual comments (29%) less often involved a lone person as the perpetrator.

On the contrary, other behaviours such as repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relationships (67%), unwelcome physical contact or getting too close (61%), and offering workplace benefit for engaging in sexual activity or being mistreated for not engaging in sexual activity (54%) were more likely to involve a single person. In this regard, these behaviours were more similar to sexual assault than they were to the other types of sexualized behaviours that more often involved multiple perpetrators.

In general, discriminatory behaviours were more commonly perpetrated by supervisors or persons of higher rank. A supervisor or higher ranking member was identified as the perpetrator by about two-thirds of Regular Force members who were insulted, mistreated, ignored, or excluded because of their sex (68%), their gender identity (67%), or their sexual orientation (64%). In each case, these proportions were higher than the next most common perpetrator relationship identified, which was a peer (45%, 56%, and 55%, respectively).

Supervisors may be more commonly noted as perpetrators of these types of behaviours because, unlike peers or subordinates, supervisors or higher-ranking members are often those making decisions related to work-related assignments, tasks, or recognition in the workplace.

On the other hand, peers were most commonly cited as responsible for most of the sexualized behaviours measured by the survey. Where peers were the most common perpetrators, this ranged from 49% for unwelcome physical contact or getting too close to 79% for sexual jokes.

Reflecting the power dynamics inherent in this type of behaviour, the one exception to this was the offering of workplace benefits in exchange for engaging in sexual activity or mistreatment for not engaging in sexual activity, where 75% of Regular Force members who experienced it stated a superior was responsible.

Nearly all Regular Force members targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviours experienced at least one instance in the military workplace

In 2018, virtually all (97%) Regular Force members who were targeted by a sexualized or discriminatory behaviour stated that at least one instance occurred in the military workplace, most commonly on a military base or wing (84%) (Chart 11). The next most common locations were the mess (29%) or during field exercises (26%).

Chart 11 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by location, 2018

Data table for Chart 11

Data table for Chart 11
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 11. The information is grouped by Location (appearing as row headers), Percent (appearing as column headers).
Location Percent
Total – in the military workplace 97
On a military base or wing 84
At the mess 29
During field exercises 26
While on a course in a military school 18
Barracks or single quarters 18
While on temporary duty/attached posting 17
While deployed 16
While on other training 14
During a sanctioned event 13
Office located off base 11
On a ship at sea or in port 11
Other military workplace 10
On an aircraft 4
During an outside Canada posting 3
At a military college 2
Total – outside the military workplace 45
Private residence 30
Commercial/institutional establishment 21
Street or other public place 18
Other location outside the military workplace 18
Married quarters 9

Approximately half (45%) experienced at least one instance outside of the military workplace, most commonly in a private residence (30%), a commercial or institutional establishment (21%), or a street or other public place (18%) or another location outside the military workplace (18%).

Close to three in ten Regular Force members targeted by inappropriate behaviour said someone in authority found out

In 2018, 28% of those targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour stated that someone in authority found outNote , a slight increase from 2016 (26%). Women were more than twice as likely as men to have reported their experience to someone in authority (45% versus 22%).  While women were more likely to have reported the behaviour in 2018 compared with 2016, the proportion of men who reported was unchanged.

One-third (32%) of those who experienced discriminatory behaviour because of their sexual orientation or gender identity stated that it was reported to someone in authority, twelve percentage points higher than in 2016 (20%). A larger proportion of discriminatory behaviour based on sex (27%) and unwanted physical contact or sexual relations (24%) were reported to someone in authority compared with 2016 (21% and 19%, respectively). There was no change in the proportion of inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communications or sexually explicit materials that came to the attention of someone in authority.

As was the case in 2016, a considerable proportion of Regular Force members were unaware as to whether someone in authority found out about the behaviours they experienced, ranging from 22% of those who were targeted by unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations to 35% of those who were the target of inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication (Chart 12).

Chart 12 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours, by category of behaviour and whether behaviours came to the attention of someone in authority, 2018

Data table for Chart 12

Data table for Chart 12
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 12. The information is grouped by Category of behaviour (appearing as row headers), Came to the attention, Did not come to the attention and Don't know if it came to the attention, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Category of behaviour Came to the attention Did not come to the attention Don't know if it came to the attention
percent
Inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication 22 43 35
Sexually explicit materials 15 53 32
Physical contact or suggested sexual relations 24 54 22
Discrimination on the basis of sex 27 46 27
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity 32 41 27

Regular Force members who stated that someone in authority found out about the behaviour most commonly said that it was their military supervisor (21%) or another military member within their chain of command who became aware. As many of the sexualized or discriminatory behaviours asked about in the SSMCAF tend not to be criminal in nature, a small proportion (2%) of Regular Force members stated that the Military Police or the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) were informed. This was the same proportion as in 2016.

Behaviour not being serious enough or being resolved informally most common reasons for not reporting

Of those who did not report the behaviour to someone in authority, the most common reasons for not having done so were that the behaviour was not serious enough (56% of men and 48% of women) or that they resolved it on their own (35% of men and 52% of women) (Chart 13). The proportions of women citing a fear of negative consequences (27%), a belief that reporting would not make a difference (38%), or concerns about the formal complaint process (15%) were about two-and-a-half times higher than the proportions among men (10%, 15%, and 6%, respectively). Notably, one in ten (10%) women stated that they did not report the behaviour because they changed jobs, about five times the proportion of men who provided this reason (2%).

Chart 13 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by gender and reasons for not reporting to someone in authority, 2018

Data table for Chart 13

Data table for Chart 13
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 13. The information is grouped by Reason for not reporting to someone in authority
(appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Reason for not reporting to someone in authority
Women MenData table Note 
percent
Not serious enough 48Note * 56
Resolved on my own 52Note * 35
Did not believe it would make a difference 38Note * 15
Behaviour stopped 31Note * 21
Afraid of negative consequences 27Note * 10
Concerns about formal complaint process 15Note * 6
Changed jobs 10Note * 2
Person(s) responsible changed jobs 10Note * 3
Unsure how 6Note * 3
Someone in authority found out another way 5Note * 4
Someone told me not to report 3Note * 2
Other 24Note * 38

Avoiding certain people at work most common impact of targeted behaviour

Among Regular Force members who personally experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours, as was the case with sexual assault, women were more likely than men to report negative impacts as a result (Table 10). Seven in ten (70%) men who experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour said they did not experience any negative impacts, compared with one in four (24%) women. Further, the least common negative impact for women, missing work or working fewer hours, was experienced at nearly the same rate as the most common negative impact among men, avoiding or wanting to avoid specific people at work (19% and 23%, respectively).

Also similar to sexual assault, avoiding or wanting to avoid specific people at work was the most common impact of having experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviour (Chart 14). Regardless of the specific impact, women were more likely to sometimes or always experience it than were men. About four in ten women sometimes or always lost trust in their chain of command (45%) or their unit (39%) as a result of their experience, about three times higher than the proportion of men who felt likewise (18% and 15%, respectively).

Chart 14 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by gender and impacts of behaviours, 2018

Data table for Chart 14

Data table for Chart 14
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 14. The information is grouped by Impacts of behaviours
(appearing as row headers), Women and Men, calculated using percent who sometimes or always experienced these impacts units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Impacts of behaviours
Women MenData table Note 
percent who sometimes or always experienced these impacts
Avoided or wanted to avoid specific people at work 67Note * 23
Negative impacts on personal or social life 42Note * 14
Stayed or wanted to stay away from specific locations on the base, wing, or formation 45Note * 13
Stayed or wanted to stay away from the gym on the base, wing, or formation 27Note * 8
Avoided or wanted to avoid the mess 34Note * 10
Missed work or worked fewer hours (i.e., left early or arrived later) 19Note * 7
Avoided optional work-related social functions 44Note * 16
Negative emotional impacts (i.e., feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, or anger) 52Note * 18
Difficulty sleeping 31Note * 10
Loss of trust in chain of command 45Note * 18
Loss of trust in unit 39Note * 15

In addition to the differences seen between genders, there were differences in the impacts experienced depending on types of behaviour. Just as discriminatory behaviours were more likely to be considered offensive, they also had negative impacts on a larger proportion of Regular Force members who experienced them (Table 10). Half (50%) of men and three-quarters (76%) of women who experienced discriminatory behaviour due to their sex, gender, or sexual orientation sometimes or always experienced negative impacts as a result. Notably, the behaviour most likely to result in negative impacts was discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; men (79%) and women (82%) were equally likely to have sometimes or always experienced negative personal impacts as a result.

Start of text box 4

Text box 4
Experiences of sexual misconduct among transgender and gender diverse or LGBQ Regular Force members

The 2018 Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces included questions on both sex at birth and gender, aligning with recent changes in many Statistics Canada surveys, to allow for more inclusive reporting for Canadians of all genders. In all, approximately 300 Regular Force members, or 0.5%, were transgender or gender diverse. Just under 99% were cisgender men or women (that is, their sex at birth, male or female, is the same as their gender), while 0.7% did not specify their gender.

For the purposes of this text box, the transgender and gender diverse population includes those who indicated that their sex at birth is not the same as their gender, as well as those who indicated that they were gender diverse. Other tables, charts, and figures cited in-text are based on responses to the gender question only and do not take sex at birth into account. While, due to small sample size, detailed analysis of the experiences of these members is not possible, some results are available.  

More than one-quarter (27%) of transgender or gender diverse Regular Force members were targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months (Text box 4 table).Note  The most common type of behaviour experienced was inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication (23%). Notably, the proportion of transgender or gender diverse members who experienced discrimination was about three times higher than that among cisgender, heterosexual Regular Force members (15% versus 4%). More specifically, 9%E of transgender or gender diverse Regular Force members experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, a proportion that was significantly higher than that of cisgender and heterosexual members (0.3%).


Text box 4 table
Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted or experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months, by gender, sexual orientation and type of sexual misconduct, 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted or experienced targeted sexualized or discriminatory behaviours in the past 12 months. The information is grouped by Type of sexual misconduct (appearing as row headers), LGBT+ Regular Force members, Cisgender, heterosexual Regular Force members, Transgender (including gender diverse), Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or sexual orientation n.e.c. and Total LGBT+, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of sexual misconduct LGBT+ Regular Force members Cisgender,Text box Note 3 heterosexual Regular Force membersText box Note 
Transgender (including gender diverse)Text box Note 1 Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or sexual orientation n.e.c.Text box Note 2 Total LGBT+
percent
Sexual assault
Sexual attack Note F: too unreliable to be published 0.7Note E: Use with caution Note * 0.7Note E: Use with caution Note * 0.2
Unwanted sexual touching Note F: too unreliable to be published 4.4Note * 4.2Note * 1.2
Sexual activity where unable to consent Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published 0.2
Total sexual assault Note F: too unreliable to be published 4.8Note * 4.6Note * 1.4
Personally experienced sexualized or discriminatory behavioursText box Note 4
Personally experienced sexualized behaviours 25.3Note * 28.8Note * 27.9Note * 13.4
Personally experienced inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communicationText box Note 5 22.7Note * 26.4Note * 25.5Note * 12.0
Personally experienced sexually explicit materialsText box Note 6 Note F: too unreliable to be published 5.7Note * 5.6Note * 2.0
Personally experienced physical contact or suggested sexual relationsText box Note 7 9.4Note E: Use with caution Note * 13.4Note * 12.9Note * 4.3
Personally experienced discriminatory behaviours 14.7Note E: Use with caution Note * 17.5Note * 16.8Note * 4.4
Personally experienced discrimination on the basis of sexText box Note 8 11.5Note E: Use with caution Note * 15.4Note * 14.6Note * 4.3
Personally experienced discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identityText box Note 9 9.4Note E: Use with caution Note * 7.0Note * 6.8Note * 0.3
Total personally experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviours 27.2Note * 31.5Note * 30.6Note * 14.5

Likewise, the 2018 SSMCAF included a more detailed question on sexual orientation that has also been introduced in other Statistics Canada questionnaires, in order to provide more detailed categories for self-identification. Of all Regular Force members, 5% were lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or sexual orientation not elsewhere classified (LGBQ).Note  Regardless of the category of behaviour measured by the SSMCAF, LGBQ Regular Force members were more likely to be targeted. In addition, sexual attacks and unwanted sexual touching were also more prevalent among LGBQ members (Text box 4 table).Note 

Taken together, in 2018, 4.6% of transgender, gender diverse, or LGBQ Regular Force members were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months compared with 5.6% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Regular Force members in 2016, a difference that was not statistically significant. There was a slight decrease in the proportion who were personally targeted by some form of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour (31% in 2018, compared with 32% in 2016).Note 

End of text box 4

Many Regular Force members were bystanders to sexualized or discriminatory behaviour

One component of Operation HONOUR and the CAF’s response to sexual misconduct was the development of training for bystanders, which focused on techniques for recognizing and reacting to sexual misconduct and harassment (Department of National Defence 2017). As noted, 70% of Regular Force members witnessed or experienced some form of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months, and a smaller proportion had been personally targeted by them. In addition, many of those who were targeted by one or more behaviours also witnessed other instances that were not directed at them personally. In 2018, 66% of Regular Force members witnessed inappropriate sexual communication, 18% witnessed other sexual behavioursNote , and 25% witnessed discriminatory behaviour directed at another individual; in other words, in at least one instance, they were bystanders to behaviour targeting another person or group.

Those members who witnessed behaviours that were not directed at them personallyNote  were asked if they ever took action in any instance; if so, they were asked what type of action was taken, and if not, they were asked the reason(s) for not taking action.Note 

Women in the Regular Force more likely to take action

Overall, the proportion of Regular Force members who took action differed slightly depending on the category of behaviour. That said, women were more likely to have taken action after having witnessed sexualized or discriminatory behaviour (Table 11). Half of women who witnessed inappropriate sexual communication (49%) or other sexual behaviours (50%) took action at least once, while this was the case for six in ten (59%) women who witnessed discrimination. About four in ten men who witnessed inappropriate sexual communication (43%), discrimination (43%), or other sexual behaviours (38%) took action in at least one instance.

The most common action taken by bystanders was talking to the person(s) responsible for the behaviour – cited by 88% of those who took action related to inappropriate sexual communication, 84% for discrimination, and 76% for other sexual behaviours. This was the case for both women and men. Talking to the person(s) targeted by the behaviour was the next most common action, done by about 4 in 10 of those who were bystanders to sexual or discriminatory behaviour (35% for inappropriate sexual communication, 41% for discrimination, and 42% for other sexual behaviours).

Those who witnessed behaviours such as sexually explicit materials or unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations were more likely to report the behaviours to someone in authority (27%) compared to those who witnessed discrimination (18%) or inappropriate sexual communication (14%).

While rarer, this was also the case when it came to contacting the police or the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC). One in twenty (5%) Regular Force members who witnessed other sexual behaviours – which includes certain behaviours that are more similar to criminal acts – contacted the Military Police, compared with 1% of those who witnessed inappropriate sexual communication or discrimination. Likewise, 2% of bystanders contacted the SMRC about an instance of other sexual behaviours, while this was the case for 1% of those who witnessed inappropriate sexual communication or discrimination.

In all, the majority of members who had witnessed sexualized or discriminatory behaviour also had at least one instance in which they did not take any action, from 72% of those who witnessed discrimination, to 75% of those who witnessed other sexual behaviours, to 84% of those who witnessed inappropriate sexual communication.

The most common reason for not taking action in at least one instance was a belief that no action was needed or that the behaviour was not serious enough. This was most commonly the case when it came to inappropriate sexual communication (78%, compared to 63% each for other sexual behaviours and discrimination). For all three groups of behaviour, this perception was more common among men than among women – especially when it came to other sexual behaviours and discrimination, where the proportion of men who did not take action because they believed it was not serious enough was twenty percentage points higher than that of women (67% versus 47% for each).

While less commonly provided as a reason for not taking action, women were more likely than men to state that they did not take action in at least one instance because they were afraid of negative consequences for themselves or for those targeted, or because the person(s) responsible were of a higher rank (Table 11).

For each group of behaviour, small proportions of Regular Force members stated that they did not take action because they didn’t feel it was their responsibility (4% each of those who witnessed other sexual behaviours or discrimination and 2% of those who witnessed inappropriate sexual communications) or because they didn’t know what to do (6% each of those who witnessed other sexual behaviours or discrimination and 3% of those who witnessed inappropriate sexual communications).

Senior non-commissioned members and senior officers were more likely than their junior counterparts to have taken action in at least one instance (Table 12). Junior non-commissioned members were the least likely to have taken action, with 35% having taken action after witnessing inappropriate sexual communication, 33% after witnessing other sexual behaviours, and 38% after witnessing discrimination. Senior officers were the most likely to have acted, with about six in ten having taken action after witnessing inappropriate sexual communication (62%), other sexual behaviours (65%), or discrimination (63%).

Section 3: Knowledge and perceptions of policies and responses to sexual misconduct

Given some of the changes that have been observed in Regular Force members’ experiences since the Deschamps report (2015), the implementation of Operation HONOUR, and the first SSMCAF, it is of interest to examine whether levels of awareness or perceptions of the CAF’s response to sexual misconduct have changed. In addition to these CAF initiatives and programs, there have been many other broad discussions and campaigns within society in general which have attempted to raise awareness relating to sexual assault and other inappropriate sexual behaviour, such as the #MeToo movement, which may have likewise had an impact on the behaviours and perceptions of CAF members. As with sexual assault and sexual and discriminatory behaviour, the second cycle of the SSMCAF included many of the same questions related to policies and climate in order to facilitate analysis of changes in beliefs over time.

As was the case in 2016, virtually all Regular Force members were aware of Operation HONOUR. More than nine in ten (96%) were very aware. Comparatively speaking, a smaller proportion of Regular Force members were very aware of the other key directives or programs related to sexual misconduct. For example, about two-thirds of Regular Force members were very aware of the Defence Administrative Order and Directive (DAOD) 5012-0 Harassment Prevention and Resolution (65%). Though less than for Operation HONOUR, this proportion increased from 2016 (55%).

Most Regular Force members were somewhat or very aware of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC). Just over half (52%) of Regular Force members were very aware of the SMRC, up from 41% in 2016 (Chart 15). As more members were very aware, there were declines noted in the proportion of members who were somewhat aware of the SMRC (38% in 2018 compared with 45% in 2016) and who were not aware of the SMRC (10%, down from 14%).

Chart 15 Regular Force members who are very aware of Canadian Armed Forces directives, policies and programs related to sexual misconduct, 2016 and 2018

Data table for Chart 15

Data table for Chart 15
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 15. The information is grouped by Directive, policy, or program (appearing as row headers), 2018 and 2016, calculated using percent who are very aware units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Directive, policy, or program 2018 2016Data table Note 
percent who are very aware
Operation HONOUR 96Note * 86
DAOD 5012-0 Harassment Prevention and Resolution 64Note * 55
Sexual Misconduct Response Centre 52Note * 41

The increase in the proportion of members who were very aware, coupled with declines in the proportion who were somewhat aware or not aware, was observed among both women and men in the Regular Force. In 2018, women and men were equally likely to be very aware (each 52%) or somewhat aware (each 38%) of the SMRC. Women were slightly more likely than men to be unaware of the SMRC (10% compared with 9%).Note  This was also the case in 2016, when 16% of women and 13% of men in the Regular Force said they were not aware of the SMRC.

Regular Force members more optimistic about Operation HONOUR than they were in 2016

In 2018, members were asked to reflect on the effectiveness of Operation HONOUR thus far, as well as how effective they believe it will be in the future. On the whole, Regular Force members were more optimistic about Operation HONOUR than they were two years prior (Chart 16). Where 32% felt it would be very or extremely effective in 2016, 45% of Regular Force members stated that, looking back, Operation HONOUR has been very or extremely effective. At the same time, 17% of Regular Force members felt that Operation HONOUR has, to date, been ineffective or only slightly effective – considerably less than the 30% of members who predicted this outcome in 2016.

Chart 16 Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force members' perception of current and future effectiveness of Operation HONOUR, 2016 and 2018

Data table for Chart 16

Data table for Chart 16
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 16. The information is grouped by 2016: Operation HONOUR will be, 2018: Operation HONOUR has been and 2018: Operation HONOUR will be, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2016: Operation HONOUR will be 2018: Operation HONOUR has been 2018: Operation HONOUR will be
percent
Very or extremely effective 30 45 48
Moderately effective 34 30 28
Slightly or not at all effective 28 17 17

Looking forward once again, about half (49%) of all Regular Force members believe Operation HONOUR will be very or extremely effective in its stated goals.

Three-quarters of women (77%) and men (75%) believed that Operation HONOUR has been moderately, very, or extremely effective since its implementation. Men were more likely than women to believe it had been very or extremely effective (46% versus 40%), while women more often stated that it had been moderately effective (37% versus 29%).

More Regular Force members positive about their current unit, CAF’s work

As was the case in 2016, the vast majority of Regular Force members felt that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not tolerated in their current unit (94%, with 83% strongly agreeing) and that complaints are or would be taken seriously in their current unit (94%, with 84% strongly agreeing) (Table 13). The proportion of those who strongly agreed with these statements was higher in 2018 than it was in 2016.

In addition, aligning with the increased proportion of members who felt Operation HONOUR had been and will be effective, 74% of Regular Force members strongly agreed that CAF is working hard to create a workplace that prevents inappropriate sexual behaviour, 10 percentage points higher than in 2016 (63%). Similar increases were observed among both women and men.

There was also a considerable increase in the proportion of Regular Force members who strongly felt that they had received adequate training on preventing and addressing inappropriate sexual behaviour (70% in 2018 versus 61% in 2016). Again, this increase was equally observed among women and men. This increase may be associated with the perception that Operation HONOUR has been effective, as one of its central tenets is the development of education and training related to the awareness and prevention of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Nearly nine in ten (88%) Regular Force members trusted their chain of command to effectively deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour – slightly higher among men (89%) than women (86%). Small proportions of men (5%) and women (7%) did not trust their chain of command in this regard. In particular, when looking at experiences in the past 12 months, 10% of men and 16% of women who were targeted by sexual or discriminatory behaviour did not trust their chain of command, while this was the case for 21% of men and 29% of women who had been sexually assaulted.

Perceptions of women who had been sexually assaulted largely unchanged from 2016

While many of the perceptions were more positive in 2018 among Regular Force members as a whole, a different pattern emerged among victims of sexual assault – particularly when looking at the perceptions of men and women who had been victimized. Men who had been sexually assaulted were more likely to strongly agree that complaints would be taken seriously in their current unit (62% in 2018 versus 47% in 2016), that they had received adequate training on preventing and addressing inappropriate sexual behaviour (57% versus 35%), that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not tolerated in their current unit (57% versus 40%), that the CAF works hard to create a workplace that prevents inappropriate sexual behaviour (52% versus 37%), and that they had trust in their chain of command to effectively deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour (47% versus 33%).

On the contrary, while women who had been sexually assaulted were more likely to strongly agree (44% in 2018 versus 34% in 2016) or somewhat agree (36% versus 27%) that they had received adequate training regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour and to somewhat agree that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not tolerated in their current unit (29% versus 21%), their perceptions of CAF’s work to prevent inappropriate sexual behaviour and their perceptions of their current unit were otherwise unchanged.

Proportion of those who believe inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the CAF has increased

Despite these specific improvements in perception and the general perspective that Operation HONOUR has been and will continue to be effective at reducing inappropriate sexual behaviour, 42% of Regular Force members agreed that inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the CAF, up from 38% in 2016. This increase being noted may be an indication of the impact of Operation HONOUR and related training programs, as more Regular Force members are identifying and understanding inappropriate sexual behaviour as problematic. 

Though the proportion of women believing inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the CAF remained higher than the proportion of men, similar increases were noted among both women (from 51% in 2016 to 54% in 2018) and men (from 36% to 40%).

Two-thirds (64%) of women who had been targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour and three-quarters (76%) of those who had been sexually assaulted believed that inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the CAF, compared to about half (54%) of women in the Regular Force in general. While men who had been sexually assaulted were more likely than men in general to believe inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem in the CAF (55% versus 40%), those who had personally experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour were similar (38%).Note 

Most Regular Force members believe that sexually inappropriate behaviour happens as often or more often in the general population 

The majority of Regular Force members felt that the CAF was similar or better than the general population in terms of the prevalence of sexually inappropriate behaviour.Note  Four in ten (40%) felt that sexually inappropriate behaviour was equally common in the CAF and the general population, and about a third thought that it was slightly more common (15%) or much more common (21%) among the general population.Note  The external review into the CAF (Deschamps 2015) concluded that one factor leading to members’ perception that inappropriate sexual behaviours were condoned or not taken seriously by leadership was a belief that these behaviours were simply a reflection of society in general – or that the CAF fared better in comparison.

Women – who are more likely to be personally impacted by sexual assault and other sexualized behaviours, both in the CAF and in general society – were twice as likely as men to state that sexually inappropriate behaviour was more common in the CAF than in society generally (25% versus 13%).

Section 4: Summary, methodology, and data sources

In 2018, for the second time, the Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (SSMCAF) was conducted in order to ask active Regular Force and Primary Reserve members about their experiences of sexual assault and sexualized and discriminatory behaviour in the military workplace or involving other military members or Department of National Defence civilians or contractors. The 2018 SSMCAF also added new questions in order to measure actions taken by bystanders, including reasons for not taking action when they witnessed sexual or discriminatory behaviour.

In 2018, approximately 900 Regular Force members stated that they had been sexually assaulted (i.e., sexually attacked, experienced unwanted sexual touching, or subjected to sexual activity to which they were unable to consent), representing 1.6% of all Regular Force members. The prevalence was about four times higher among women (4.3%) than men (1.1%). Compared with the 2016 SSMCAF, there were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence of sexual assault among Regular Force members.

Unwanted sexual touching was the most common type of sexual assault experienced, regardless of gender. As is the case in the general population, certain groups of members – such as those who are younger, Indigenous persons, or persons with disabilities – were more likely to have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months. About one in four Regular Force members who were sexually assaulted stated that someone in authority found out about the assault in some way.

Seven in ten (70%) Regular Force members saw, heard, or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the past 12 months – and 15% were personally targeted. The most common behaviours witnessed or experienced were sexual jokes, inappropriate sexual comments, and inappropriate discussion about sex life. The proportion of women who were targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviour was about double that of men (28% versus 13%).

Most Regular Force members witnessed at least one instance of sexualized or discriminatory behaviour, most commonly one that was related to inappropriate communication. Roughly four in ten men and approximately half of women said that they took action at least once, and most commonly this action took the form of speaking to the persons responsible. When action was not taken, the most common reason why was that the instance was not perceived to be serious enough to require action.

In general, Regular Force members were positive about the current and future effectiveness of Operation HONOUR and about the ways in which the CAF and their current unit approaches preventing, addressing, and responding to inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Effecting organizational change can be difficult, and often takes time. Operation HONOUR appears to have made some progress more than three years since its implementation. The proportion of Regular Force members who witnessed all types of behaviours measured by the survey was lower in 2018 than in 2016, while for 9 of the 15 behaviours measured, fewer Regular Force members were personally targeted by them in 2018.

Additionally, Regular Force members in 2018 were more optimistic about the effectiveness of Operation HONOUR and were even more likely than they were two years prior to strongly agree that both the CAF as a whole and their current unit were taking effective steps to prevent and address inappropriate sexual behaviour. There was an increase in the proportion of members who were targeted by sexualized or discriminatory behaviours who reported to someone in authority, and there were fewer women sexually assaulted by a supervisor or someone of higher rank.

As central components of Operation HONOUR involved training and education related to awareness, prevention, and recognition of inappropriate sexual behaviour and taking steps to create a more respectful workplace, these shifts may signal various effects since the implementation of the strategy.

Despite these changes, however, the prevalence of sexual assault, the frequency with which sexual assault was reported to authorities, and the prevalence of certain types of targeted sexual or discriminatory behaviours have not changed since 2016. Namely, behaviours that are typically more serious, are less likely to be perpetrated by groups or peers, or are less likely to reflect the general workplace climate have not declined. Behaviours such as these may also be more likely to occur in one-on-one situations and therefore may be less amenable to influence through training and related programs, reflecting a weaker ‘bystander effect’.

That said, the declines noted in the relatively less serious types of behaviours can be evidence of proactive prevention and of strategies taking hold. Reducing the incidence of less serious behaviours and shifting the day-to-day culture may help to prevent the creation of a workplace climate where these types of behaviours can escalate in frequency and in seriousness (Klein and Gallus 2018).


Text table 2
Summary of changes in the experiences of Regular Force members, 2016 to 2018 
Table summary
This table displays the results of Summary of changes in the experiences of Regular Force members 2018 prevalence (%) and change from 2016 (appearing as column headers).
2018 prevalence (%) change from 2016
Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours (personally experienced)
Sexual jokes 10.6
Inappropriate discussion about sex life 5.1
Inappropriate sexual comments 4.2
Unwelcome physical contact or getting too close 3.7
Suggestions that a man doesn't act like a man is supposed to act or a woman doesn't act like woman is supposed to act 3.4
Unwanted sexual attention 3.1
Someone being insulted/mistreated/ignored/excluded because of their sex 2.2 =
Displaying, showing, or sending sexually explicit messages or materials 2.2 =
Comments that people are either not good at a particular job or should be prevented from having a particular job because of their sex 1.9
Repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relationships 1.2 =
Indecent exposure or inappropriate display of body parts 1.0
Someone being insulted/mistreated/ignored/excluded because of their sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation 0.6 =
Offering workplace benefit for engaging in sexual activity or being mistreated for not engaging in sexual activity 0.2 =
Someone being insulted/mistreated/ignored/excluded because they are (or assumed to be) trans 0.2 =
Taking and/or posting inappropriate or sexually suggestive photos or videos of any CAF members, without consent 0.2
Sexual assault
Unwanted sexual touching 1.4 =
Sexual attacks 0.2 =
Sexual activity where unable to consent 0.2 =

Methodology and data sources

This report is based on data from the 2018 Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The target population was all active members of the Regular Force and Primary Reserves. For information on the methodology and response rates among the Primary Reserves, see Burczycka (2019).

The SSMCAF was administered only to current CAF members. Therefore, those who may have been on administrative, medical, or parental leave or those who may have chosen to leave the CAF as a result of victimization or for any other reason were not included in the survey. The questionnaire was sent electronically to all members of the target population; therefore, no sampling was done. Data collection took place between September and November, 2018. Responses were obtained using an electronic questionnaire.

The response rate among Regular Force members was 52%, down from 2016 (61%). In all, 28,541 Regular Force members completed and submitted the questionnaire; their responses were weighted so as to represent the entire Regular Force population. After weighting, the submitted responses represented approximately 55,900 Regular Force members.

For more information and copies of the questionnaire, refer to the Statistics Canada survey information page: Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

References

Burczycka, M. 2019. Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserve. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-603-X.

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Castro, C.A., Kintzle, S., Schuyler, A.C., Lucas, C.L., and C.H. Warner. 2015. “Sexual assault in the military.” Current Psychiatry Reports. Vol. 17, no. 54, p. 1-13.

Conroy, S. and A. Cotter. 2017. "Self-reported sexual assault in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Cotter, A. 2016. Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-603-X.

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985. c. C-46.

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Deschamps, M. 2015. External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.

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LeBlanc, M. and J. Coulthard. 2015. The Canadian Forces Workplace Harassment Survey: Findings from Designated Group Members. Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis Scientific Letter, DRDC-RDDC-2015-L179, June 2015.

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Office of the Auditor General of Canada. 2018. “Report 5—Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour—Canadian Armed Forces.” 2018 Fall Reports of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada.

Perreault, S. 2015. “Criminal victimization in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

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Rotenberg, C. & A. Cotter. 2018. “Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after #MeToo, 2016 and 2017.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Sadler, A.G., Lindsay, D.R., Hunter, S.T. and D.V. Day. 2018. “The impact of leadership on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.” Military Psychology, Vol. 30 No. 3, p. 252-263.

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