AHSS 1: Examining men’s experiences of being victims of sexual offences during military service and scrutinising the military response in the UK

Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Supervisors: Dr Charlotte Herriott; Dr Lauren Godier-McBard; Prof Matt Fossey

Location: Cambridge or Chelmsford

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Tuesday 2 May.

This PhD presents an important opportunity to gather novel insights into men’s experiences as victims of sexual violence in the UK armed forces, as well as their accounts of the reporting process, military response, and their experience of the service justice system (SJS).

Countless recent media reports have detailed significant levels of sexual harassment, bullying, and serious sexual offences perpetrated by and against serving personnel across the UK armed forces.

Meanwhile, official statistics reveal that up to 99% of service personnel have experienced some form of generalised sexual behaviours in the past 12 months, whether personally or directed at another (Markson, 2018; MOD, 2015; Rutherford, Schneider, and Walmsley, 2006).

The impact of this sexual victimisation can be far-reaching; increasing the likelihood of mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, substance misuse problems, sleep disorders (Stander and Thomsen, 2016; Turchik and Wilson, 2010) and ultimately negatively impacting on service personnel’s careers (Markson, 2018; Ministry of Defence, 2015).

Whilst servicewomen tend to be overrepresented as victims of sexual offences in the UK military (MOD, 2021), meaning that the bulk of existing research on military sexual violence has focused on women; the experiences of male victims must equally not become overlooked or neglected.

In fact, servicemen are more likely to be sexually victimised than civilian men; accounting for almost a quarter (24%) of reported sexual offences victims in the SJS (MOD, 2021), compared to 16% in the civilian system (ONS, 2021).

Whistle-blowers have described rape against servicemen as “pretty routine” and “predictable” (Crone, 2014), though research indicates that the overwhelming majority never make an official report due to engrained perceptions of shame and stigma (Philips, 2019).

Indeed, sexual offences are notoriously underreported both in the civilian and military context, however both military personnel and men are even less likely to report (Rutherford et al. 2006; Hammond, 2016); meaning the intersectional barriers faced by servicemen are likely to be significant.

To date, the only insight that specifically explores UK servicemen’s experiences of sexual violence was conducted by veterans' charity ‘Forward Assist’ (Wright, 2021) and reveals widespread and extreme sexual violence against men within the military institution. 50% of the male veterans that they spoke to reported some form of sexual assault as soon as they joined the military, with initiation ceremonies seemingly particularly problematic (Godier-McBard and Jones, 2020; Wright, 2021).

This PhD will seek to build on the current knowledge base, by gathering important qualitative insights about servicemen’s experiences of sexual violence in the military, so as to establish:

  1. The context and circumstances in which such victimisation occurs
  2. The unique challenges that servicemen face in experiencing, reporting, and being taken seriously as victims of sexual violence
  3. Servicemen’s perceptions and/or experiences of the SJS
  4. The impact of sexual victimisation on servicemen

The PhD therefore presents an exciting opportunity to work in an emerging and important research area and promote meaningful, real-world impact of the research findings.

The successful applicant will benefit from strong supervisory support and will be based in the world-leading Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research, whilst working in collaboration with the department of Criminology.

The supervisory team are currently amongst only a handful of academics in the UK focused on this subject matter and have established strong networks and strategic partners both nationally and internationally.

The first supervisor, Dr Charlotte Herriott, holds expertise around sexual violence in the civilian criminal justice system, and is currently undertaking urgent research examining servicewomen’s experiences of sexual violence in the military, and the SJS response.

Meanwhile, Dr Lauren Godier-McBard and Professor Matt Fossey boast extensive experience of researching military and veteran populations and retain a strong track record of academic publications and tangible real-world impact, translating research findings into changes to national governmental and MOD policy and practice.

If you would like to discuss this research project, please contact charlotte.herriott@aru.ac.uk

Apply online by 19 March 2023

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2022/3 this was £17,688 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.