Australia’s military was yesterday hit by a fresh sex scandal, with a female sailor claiming she was sexually assaulted by a crewmate on board a mine-hunting ship.
The 21-year-old Able Seaman alleged that a fellow sailor, 24, had confronted and then sexually assaulted her aboard HMAS Diamantina while it was docked in Sydney last month, defense officials said.
“Military authorities were made aware of the complaint on Friday 9 September 2011, when the complainant reported the alleged incident to HMAS Diamantina’s Naval Police Coxswain, who immediately informed his chain of command,” a spokeswoman told reporters.
The matter was referred immediately “and with sensitivity” to Sydney police, and both sailors were given medical, legal and professional support, she added.
The female sailor was still at work and the male was also on duty, though he had been moved to a different location “pending the outcome of ongoing investigations.”
“Defense is awaiting the outcome of the NSW [New South Wales] Police investigation and will undertake the appropriate action upon completion of the investigation,” the spokeswoman said.
The accusation renewed debate about the treatment of women in Australia’s military, currently being examined by an independent inquiry set up after a sex scandal at the nation’s elite defense academy earlier this year.
The case, in which a female cadet was unwittingly filmed and broadcast via the Internet without her consent having sex with a male classmate, also sparked a review of sex and other abuse in the military.
More than 1,000 claims have been made involving sexual abuse, beatings and other misconduct within the armed forces stretching back decades. Australia’s military has gained a reputation for drinking and sexist attitudes, with a report into incidents on board the supply ship HMAS Success this year finding a sexually predatory and boozy culture, concealed through silence and fear.