20:08 GMT25 July 2021
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    An independent inquiry discovered a culture of widespread sexual harassment among ambulance staff in southwest England.

    Female paramedics in southwest England face all sorts of sexual abuse, an independent inquiry has found. Other than (relatively) harmless male jokes, women were "exposed to pornographic material," referred to as "fresh meat" and forced to perform sexual favors for male superiors in order to advance their careers.

    "Women talked about being exposed to pornographic material, to being physically propositioned and to behaviors that are frankly bordering on gross misconduct or even sexual assault," the report, written in collaboration with trade union Unison, says.

    According to the report, sexual banter was "commonplace" in the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT). The women were referred to as "fresh meat" among male employees, and some were told they would be bent over a manager's knee "and spanked." The report outlines a "boys club mentality" that was widespread among the staff.

    However, this is not where the story ends. According to the report, women were physically attacked and coerced into giving sexual services to male colleagues.

    One interviewed person reportedly recalled an occasion when a male and a female worker "simulated sexual intercourse" in front of many other people, which employees of both sexes found "wholly offensive."

    Superiors took advantage of this climate as well, the report says.

    "It was made clear to me that if I wanted to progress my career, there were sexual favors that were required," one interviewee said. "Nights out, weekends away. You do as we want you to."

    Unsurprisingly, some people were driven to the brink of despair, and some, sadly, over it. Both suicidal thoughts and actual suicides have occurred in SWASFT, the report says.

    "It is impossible to connect these [suicides] directly to alleged bullying/inappropriate behavior, although some staff we interviewed made those connections themselves," the report reads.

    According to the inquiry, the staff were "too scared" to take their complaints forward. Some 15 percent of those bullied said they never spoke up. Those who had done so "felt their careers had suffered as a result," or that their concerns were "dismissed with no repercussions for the alleged perpetrator," the report says.

    SWASFT commissioned the inquiry on its own, following a 2017 National Health Service finding that some 24 percent of ambulance staff have experienced bullying or harassment.

    Following the probe, SWASFT released a statement acknowledging the problems in "some areas," but saying that there was "not a culture of bullying and harassment or a systemic issue."

    The ambulance service's chief executive Ken Wenman described the review's findings as "the most important and significant" report he's read in 20 years, according to a report by The Sun.


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    sexual harassment, inquiry, ambulance, South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT), United Kingdom
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