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Understanding sexual offences in UK military and veteran populations: delineating the offences and setting research priorities
  1. Louise Morgan
  1. Centre for Veterans' Health, King Edward VII's Hospital, London W1G 6AA, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louise Morgan, Centre for Veterans' Health, King Edward VII's Hospital, London, UK; louisemorgan{at}


Recent publications have highlighted the need to address inappropriate behaviours, including discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment, within the British Armed Forces; however, no UK work to date pays sufficient attention to sexual offences as defined by the Sexual Offences Act (2003). In trying to ascertain prevalence, nature and consequences of sexual offences in military and veteran populations, one is faced with majority United States (US) research with different definitions of offences, different populations and different research methods. These and UK publications use various terminology, often ill-defined and used interchangeably (eg, harassment, abuse, violence, assault, trauma), meaning it is not always clear what is being discussed, and the criminal acts of sexual offences have become lost, oversimplified and blurred by their incorporation into wider discussions of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. As a result, there is lack of clarity around the topic, and insufficient recognition and weight is given to the nature and complexity involved in understanding sexual offences and their consequences. It is important to distinguish between different types of unlawful behaviour: each are associated with different physical and psychological health outcomes for victims, and management of perpetrators will differ. Some behaviours will be managed through education and awareness programmes; other behaviours necessitate a prison sentence. This article highlights that understanding sexual offences in military and veteran populations is more complex than existing UK publications have acknowledged, and sets out some of the issues that research needs to consider if we are to develop prevention and management strategies.

  • sexual medicine
  • mental health
  • psychiatry

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  • Contributors Primary author, full contribution.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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