Nearly 200 women ‘sexually abused at Sandhurst military academy’, charity claims

Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (PA)
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (PA)

Nearly 200 women have sought help after suffering sexual abuse at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, a charity has reported.

Salute Her UK, which supports female military personnel, has claimed there is an “epidemic” of rape culture across the military.

In relation to women serving at Sandhurst specifically, the charity said it has obtained figures showing nearly 200 women sought support over a period of more than 20 years.

Victims claim sexual predators have operated freely since the academy began admitting women in 1984.

Sandhurst is one of several military academies of the UK and is the British Army’s initial officer training centre. It is located in the town of Sandhurst, Berkshire, though its ceremonial entrance is in Surrey.

Salute Her UK chief executive Paula Edwards told the Telegraph that over half of the 3,170 women on the charity’s database have reported rape during their time in the Armed Forces.

Of those victims, 177 claim to have been raped or sexually assaulted while serving at Sandhurst, according to the charity.

Ms Edwards claims Salute Her receives 10 referrals a week for women who have been historically or recently raped.

The allegations come after the Royal Navy was forced to launch an investigation into sexual assault allegations on board nuclear submarines earlier this year.

The Ministry of Defence’s policy on Zero Tolerance to Sexual Offences and Sexual Relationships Between Instructors and Trainees was published in March this year.

This was followed by the Zero Tolerance to Unacceptable Sexual Behaviour policy, which went live on November 19.  Both policies do not apply retrospectively.

New measures being developed would ensure commanding officers who, when found by the Service Complaints Ombudsman to have fallen short of expected standards in handling service complaints, receive appropriate consequences that appear on their employment records.

A ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Young recruits deserve to be treated with respect, not taken advantage of. That is why the Armed Forces has a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault and any allegations reported will be investigated, with immediate action taken.

“The new independent Serious Crime Unit, set up to investigate serious crimes across our tri-services, independent of the chain of command, will ensure anyone found guilty will face the full weight of the law and immediate dismissal.

“In further recognition of how seriously allegations of this nature are taken, the Defence Secretary is bidding for new legislation that would make it a formal offence in military law for those found guilty of sexual relationships with new recruits, potentially resulting in court marshal and a custodial sentence.”

The Ministry of Defence has published a Defence-wide strategy for how rape and serious sexual offences are handled within the Service Justice System.

In 2021 a report led by Tory MP and former soldier Sarah Atherton found that almost two thirds of women had experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination while serving in the Army.