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That means a total of 1,780 sexual assaults per year in the Canadian Forces. “It’s a huge problem,” says Alain Gauthier, director-general of operations in the ombudsman’s office of the Canadian Forces.The office is considering putting in place a systematic investigation of harassment and sexual violence in the military, he says.
Women are woken up in the middle of the night by tipsy aggressors who find their way into their quarters.When she signed up at 18, she was young and idealistic, and couldn’t wait to get her hands on the engine of a fighter plane. He grabbed her by the throat so hard it left fingerprints on her neck. Next thing she knew, he was trying to yank her clothes off. She woke up in the middle of the night on the back seat of a pickup truck. Another time, she was putting bottles away in the back of the same bar and she felt a hand cover her mouth. The voice of the man trying to sodomize her was strangely familiar. Her private hell took a new shape in the 2000s, at CFB Bagotville, when some of her superiors started making explicit sexual advances.For the next 25 years, she wore the blue uniform of the Royal Canadian Air Force proudly, like it was a second skin, convinced she was serving a greater cause. She will never forget him whispering in her ear: “If you talk to anyone about this, you’re dead.” She only remembers flashes from the second assault, which happened the next year at a party on the Trenton base in Ontario. When she refused, they just tried to make her life harder. That was the headline on a Maclean’s cover in 1998—one of four cover stories that year stemming from a nine-month investigation into disturbing behaviour in the Canadian Forces.Now, 16 years later, reporters Noémi Mercier and Alec Castonguay talked to dozens of victims, attended court martials, culled statistics and documents under Access to Information, and visited bases across the country and Afghanistan. A follow-up to Stéphanie Raymond’s portion of this story is here.