Military servicewoman accuses Royal Navy senior officer of rape

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Joanna said as the senior officer said he had consensual sex with her, that breaks several rules and there is now a zero tolerance policy in place saying even a consensual affair can lead to discharge if there is a disparity in rank.

Despite this, she says “he is still in service and he’s still in the same rank”.

“Essentially, he’s been given a slap on the wrist. He hasn’t been demoted in rank. He could have been promoted ahead of this – it might have affected his career a little bit, but he is still in a job in the Royal Navy.”

In a statement, the Royal Navy said: “Sexual assault and other sexual offences are not tolerated in the Royal Navy and anything which falls short of the highest of standards is totally unacceptable.

“We acknowledge that this incident will have had a significant impact to those involved, and since then we have made significant changes to how incidents are reported and investigated.

“This includes providing specialist help to victims and witnesses of serious crime, independent from the military chain of command.”

The Navy has since set up the Defence Serious Crime Command and Victim Witness Care Unit, in 2022, to provide specialist support.

Conservative MP Sarah Atherton, who sits on Defence Select Committee and in 2021 led a review into lived experiences of service woman and veterans, said she was “saddened to hear yet another account of mistreatment in the military of a servicewoman… but not surprised”.

The senior officer “has a responsibility and it’s incumbent on him to have protected her, not exploit her”, the Conservative MP told Woman’s Hour.

“I know it’s very difficult to have a conviction when it’s one word against another, but these are not the standards we expect from a professional military,” added Ms Atherton, who served in the army.

The zero tolerance policy was introduced in 2022 in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse on board the UK’s nuclear armed submarines made by a whistleblower. The First Sea Lord said at the time there would be the presumption of discharge for anyone engaging in sexual assault or harassment.

Joanna said she does not think that policy is working.

And Ms Atherton said since the policy was introduced “very few, if any, service personnel have been discharged”.

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Talking about her life now, Joanna said: “I’ve lost the career that I loved. I have secured new employment, but I’m not well enough to work full time. My salary’s more than halved. I’ve lost a huge amount of pension. But that’s not as important as being as well as I can be.

“I will carry on, but it will never have not happened.”

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