The foreign secretary, William Hague, has called for an end to the use of sexual violence in war as part of the fine and timely crusade he has taken up alongside movie star Angelina Jolie. An inquest into the death of corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, a military policewoman who killed herself in 2011 after claiming she was raped by army colleagues, has fixed a spotlight on the issue of sexual violence within the British military. Today the coroner found Ellement killed herself in part due to bullying in the army and the effects of alleged rape. It has also emerged that of 200 allegations of rape and sexual assault between 2011 and 2013 in the military, there have only been 27 convictions.
To begin to understand the British military on any level it is best to start with a round of myth busting. Let us dispense with the idea that the British military is in a meaningful sense a slightly quaint but essentially harmonious family. Healthy families do not regularly inflict acts of sexual violence upon each other, and in the British forces rapes and sexual assaults seem to have become something of a banality.