64 Percent of Female Veterans in U.K. Report 'Bullying, Harassment or Discrimination': Poll

At least 64 percent of female veterans in the U.K. armed forces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination in their roles, according to a report by the government's defense committee.

The report, which was released Sunday by the defense sub-committee on women in the armed forces, also found that 58 percent of women currently serving in the British military have experienced those same forms of abuse.

The committee surveyed the experiences of around 4,200 women, of which roughly 10 percent were serving personnel. The report marks the first time the Ministry of Defense has lifted a restriction that prevents military personnel from taking part in inquiries.

The report details "truly shocking" accounts of sexual assault and rape experienced by servicewomen, including gang rape, bullying for refusing sexual advances, and assault by senior officers. Some women in the survey reported "witnessing friends being attacked by groups of men but being too afraid to report it," and said mess halls and public spaces are often viewed as "places of danger."

Additionally, the report found that there is a general lack of faith in the military's complaints system. Nearly 60 percent of women said they did not feel comfortable to report the bullying, harassment and discrimination they experienced, while many who did said the system was "extremely poor."

"The Complaints system, as it stands, is woefully inadequate and leaves most feeling unable to come forward. We also heard accusations of senior officers sweeping complaints under the rug to protect their own reputations and careers," said veteran Sarah Atherton, who chairs the ministry's subcommittee on women in the armed forces.

Atherton said that serious sexual offenses should not be tried in the court martial system, and noted that "military women are being denied justice," by doing so.

Instead, the committee is urging authorities to hand cases of rape and sexual assault from military courts to the civilian court system. The committee is also calling for the creation of a new defense authority independent from the chain of command to look into allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

"It is difficult not to be moved by the stories of trauma, both emotional and physical, suffered by women at the hands of their colleagues. A woman raped in the military often then has to live and work with the accused perpetrator, with fears that speaking out would damage her career prospects," Atherton added.

"Our recommendations attempt to mitigate this and ask the Ministry of Defense to tackle the issue of criminal behavior head on."

British Army Harassment/Discrimination Report
64 percent of female veterans in the U.K. military have reported facing bullying, discrimination and harassment, according to a new report from the defense committee. Here, the national flag of the U.K. is displayed as British troops and service personal attend a Sunday service on November 9, 2014 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Additional issues detailed in the report include practical challenges that servicewomen face, including being given ill-fitting uniforms and body armor that places them in greater risk of harm during combat.

Despite facing gender issues, roughly 90 percent of women surveyed said they would still recommend the armed forces as a career. However, nearly 84 percent said that female service personnel face more challenges than their male counterparts.

"The importance of the contribution that servicewomen make to the military, and to the country as a whole, cannot be overstated," said lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, who chair's the defense committee.

"It is clear from this report that more can, and should, be done to protect and provide for servicewomen and female veterans, who have, far too often, been let down by the Ministry of Defense. Where there has been injustice, rectifications must be made."

Newsweek contacted the Ministry of Defense for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.