A major survey carried out by the Norwegian Armed Forces has uncovered an alarming incidence of sexual assault, with rape or attempted rape occurring every other day, national broadcaster NRK reported.
44 soldiers (24 women and 20 men) said they have been raped in the past twelve months, while 123 people said they'd survived a rape attempt. Of them, 35 soldiers claimed that a superior was taking advantage of their position to pressure them to engage in "unwanted sexual activity".
Chief of Defence Haakon Bruun-Hanssen said that he is surprised at the number of alleged rapes that surfaced in the survey.
"We are in it together, many people, the Armed Forces are well-regulated and we have implemented a number of measures. So the fact we have so many [sexual assault cases] in and outside of service surprises me and makes me extra angry," Bruun-Hanssen told NRK.
The chief of defence stressed that only two rape cases have been reported to the police during the same period, while over 40 soldiers claimed to have have been raped. Bruun-Hanssen urged all victims of sexual assault to report the crimes to the police without hesitation.
Equality and discrimination ombudsperson Hanne Bjurstrøm suggested that the information about male rape is one of the most surprising things that came to light.
"The fact that there is an almost 50/50 distribution between women and men who experience something as rough as rape is surprising," Bjurstrøm told NRK. "It shows that we cannot limit it to a culture that primarily targets women. We need a much broader approach. We know from before that it is difficult for women to report rape, but it is perhaps even more so for men," Bjurstrøm said.
Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said that this is "far from where the armed forces should be". He admitted that the conditions are much worse than he had hoped and pledged to work to eliminate the problem.
"It is very sad that we have an organisation where so many have experienced unacceptable behaviour and so many report events that are illegal," Bakke-Jensen told NRK, stressing that the armed forces have zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
Bakke-Jensen said he expected everyone in the armed forces to "lead the way as good role models" and not tolerate any bullying or harassment. The minister also stressed the importance of having routines in place for people to report assault cases.
Labour MP Anniken Huitfeldt called the results of the survey "disturbing". She said that the situation cannot continue as it is, and ventured that the armed forces haven't done enough to weed out and prevent this sort of behaviour.
The head of the Norwegian Officers' Association, Torbjørn Bongo, called the results "completely unacceptable" and suggested there was a long way to go.
Norway's military force in peacetime is slightly over 16,000. Since 2016, when conscription was extended to ladies, women in uniform have made up about 17 percent of the Norwegian armed forces; their percentage is steadily increasing.
The survey was carried out in the autumn of 2018 and featured answers from 8,085 soldiers.