Former lieutenant Sophie Brook claims she suffered sexual harassment during her time in the Royal Navy

A female former lieutenant has told how she was subjected to sexual harassment and being punched during her time in the Royal Navy, which left her "self-harming to the point of needing stitches".

Sophie Brook has told Sky News she would "cry in her bed" over the way she was treated, and once tried to break her own arm to avoid being sent on a specific submarine.

The now 30-year-old joined the Navy when she was just 18, and then moved to the Submarine Service three years later.

Having been interested in a military career from a young age, she said she "didn't expect to have any problems", but the "culture became pretty evident" early on during her first patrol in 2014.

It was during that trip that the then 21-year-old Ms Brook experienced a senior officer posting 50ps through a vent in her room, and telling her they were for "a blow job".

"I think I tried to just go with it," she said. "I had always expected a level of misogyny and I accepted that we were the new guys... and I believed it was going to take some time for things to change.

"I wanted to integrate with them and for them to accept that we were helping because we were competent officers."

"I'm ashamed to say that I didn't say 'that's wrong', I suppose because I was scared," the submariner added.

'Put their penis in your pocket'

In one example, Ms Brook explained how officers would try to distract her while she was carrying out her duty of looking out of the submarine's periscope by blowing on her neck, or putting their tongue in her ear.

"It would be like a favourite pastime of those senior to us, to try to convince us to take our eyes off of the mast," she said.

"That could range from them telling us 'guess what I've put in your pocket' to actually having them put their penis in your pocket. Obviously, it was to get a reaction.

"They would suck their finger and then put that finger in your ear and then, if you did take your eyes off of the mast, and this is common between men and women, you'd get what's known as a kidney punch."

'I came back to find him in my bed naked'

In another incident, Ms Brook claimed she returned to her bunk after coming off watch to find another officer laying naked in her bed.

She explained that he had "obviously been in the shower" and was laying in a "sexual pose".

"He just thought it was funny. Your bed is like your sanctuary... no one messes with people's beds because that's your only private space on board."

This wasn't the only time Ms Brook suffered such an experience, another time she was asleep when she woke up to a "bit of a fumble".

"An officer senior to me was trying to get into my bed and kissing me, and I pushed him off and said no," she told Sky News.

"He did immediately back off when I said no, but I was pretty shocked to find him getting into my bed in the first place."

In other incidents, Ms Brook claimed she was called a "c***", "ritually humiliated" for "minor failings" and found her name on a "crush depth rape list", in which women were ranked in the order they should be raped in a catastrophic event.

'There's no way of getting off that submarine'

Around 2017, she attempted to raise her complaints to a commodore and a captain, giving "specific examples" of the issues she was facing.

"For example, where I had been told that I was going to be given a cervical examination on the wardroom table by the rest of the guys essentially," she explained.

"I told him about the other incidents... and his attitude to it was pretty much 'you've just got to hold on, things will get better, you're a trailblazer, you've got to expect that these things will happen'."

Asked how she felt, she replied "powerless", and explained that there is a "rank structure" people had to strictly follow.

"When you're on patrol, there is nowhere to go. You can't text, you can't go home and speak to your partner, or your parents or your friend, and offload. There's no way you're getting off that submarine," she said.

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'I knew I wasn't going to cope'

The toll of the abuse started to take its toll on Ms Brook, and when she was asked to move to a submarine she had specifically requested not to be onboard, she hit her "breaking point" and started to self-harm.

"I dealt with it by crying in my bed a lot. You know, women that cried openly would be described as menstrual. So I think I shut down externally and tried to just shut out the white noise and then just keep going," she said.

"I knew I wasn't going to cope there, and that was ignored. I tried to break my own arm to stop me having to go," she added.

"I was self-harming to the point of needing stitches."

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Investigation launched into "abhorrent" claim

Since Ms Brook went public with her claims, the head of the Royal Navy has launched an investigation into the Submarine Service.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, the First Sea Lord, said sexual assault and harassment has no place in the Royal Navy and that anyone who is found culpable will be held accountable.

"I am deeply disturbed to hear of allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the submarine service and I want to reassure our people, and anyone who is reading this, that any activity which falls short of the highest of standards the Royal Navy sets itself is totally unacceptable and not a true reflection of what service life should be," he said on Twitter.

"These allegations are abhorrent. Sexual assault and harassment has no place in the Royal Navy and will not be tolerated."

But while Ms Brooks has said she "would like to have faith" in the investigation, she would prefer to see an "independent inquiry" take place.

"I've led a number of immediate ships investigations myself over the years and I would say on every single one you've been given the direction as to what the outcome is prior to doing the investigation," she said.

"I believe the person leading it genuinely wants to do a good job. But I don't understand how an organisation can investigate itself."

Earlier this year, the MoD announced a zero-tolerance policy to sexual offences aligning the Royal Navy, RAF, and Army under one approach.