Chain of command "responsible" for enabling former soldiers sexual assault

·7 min read

Content Warning: This article deals with sensitive subjects surrounding sexual assault.

Justin Hudson has wanted a military career for about as long as he can remember, but for over ten years he hasn't had that chance, largely due to sexual misconduct and the sexualized, aggressive culture that hangs over the Canadian Armed Forces.

Now living in Kingston, Hudson says over the last year he has become much more comfortable speaking on the topic, and is ready for people to know about the sexual harassment and assault he experienced at the hands of two peers' in the military, and the subsequent cover-up by superiors.

In 2011, Justin Hudson says he was the victim of repeated sexual assault and sexual misconduct from two classmates in his CFB Borden officer training program.

Hudson has said he holds the two men and the handling of the chain of command equally responsible for degrading him and effectively ruining his CAF career.

"Over a long period of time this behaviour, in combination with the way the chain of command dealt with the situation, it had the sense of slowly eroding my human dignity," Hudson says.

Hudson says the incidents began when he was posted to CFB Comox in British Columbia.

He was assaulted at the hands of two of his classmates, one of which he noted was the clear leader in the incidents.

Hudson didn't know the two men very well at the time, but said upon his second visit to Victoria where he wound up staying at one soldier's apartment, the concerning, deviant behaviour showed itself.

Hudson, who wasn't much of a drinker, was pressured to drink and throughout the night one of the men would flash images and videos of pornography at Hudson to try and make him uncomfortable.

That night Hudson says he and his two classmates went to the bar where he wasn't feeling well from the prior drinks.

Hudson's mindset at that time demonstrated part of what he has witnessed be an issue in the military: they were classmates of his and even though he didn't like what they were doing he was still supposed to support them.

The three men returned to one of the accused's apartments, where they slept in their room. Hudson says sometime during the night, the two other men entered the room while making deliberately loud whispering noises, came up to him and started touching him all over his body including grabbing his buttocks.

He says at the time he thought it was a possibility that they might rape him, and kept just rolling over and trying to get away from them.

When they returned to class at CFB Borden, Hudson says the accused would consistently make sexual comments and do things like pinching his buttocks.

Hudson says they "felt empowered to get away with anything" which had the effect of distracting him on course and he believes the two men had a goal of getting him kicked out of the course entirely.

A number of incidents of sexual harassment followed in the coming months.

In one instance, the soldier who Hudson says was the leader of the two accused cornered Hudson into a dining hall bathroom stall and tried to coerce him into performing a sex act. Hudson had to force the door open and squeeze out and leave without using the bathroom.

Another time in the hallway area Hudson says the soldier popped in front of him, unzipped his pants and pulled out his erect penis which he rubbed on Hudson's leg, who shouted at him and went back to his room.

Hudson recalls these more serious incidents vividly, but says the inappropriate touching and sexual jokes, in general, were constant.

"I can't describe any one incident because it happened almost every day," Hudson says.

At a certain point Hudson talked to a classmate about being fed up and the classmate told him he should run it up the chain of command, and he reported it to his superior.

Hudson says that although he does wish his superior had done more to follow up, he did his job and it was passed up to one of his senior officers.

When informed of this behaviour, instead of disciplining the perpetrator, the senior officer assigned him a role in an interview preparation exercise he thought might help to teach him.

The exercise saw the accused soldier overseeing a sexual misconduct-related matter, as if that would educate him on the dangers and seriousness of sexual misconduct and deter him in the future.

Hudson was in disbelief of this, and says that it was clear the chain of command had chosen to protect the perpetrator instead of him.

"Not only did they ruin my career but they went out of their way to help a person who was sexually deviant, committing multiple acts of sexual assault and sexual misconduct," Hudson says.

"They helped him and threw my career under the bus."

Though Hudson has largely made peace with his life and past, he still holds a ton of anger towards the chain of command.

Following the harassment by his classmates, Hudson had serious difficulty keeping up with the Canadian Forces course.

Instead of receiving help from his superiors, he says they observed the perpetrator as being in a good state of mind and helped him and observed Hudson struggling and chose to make him feel isolated instead of working to build him back up.

Hudson eventually wanted to leave the military as fast as possible so he went along with what he said was a Delta 5 release which he knew was illegal.

Even in the comments on the release, Hudson noted directly: "RELEASE ILLEGAL/UNLAWFUL" and says the chain of command just sort of ignored it.

Hudson's case is under investigation by the CFNIS, and he is part of a class-action lawsuit, but in his opinion, it's not enough to have it court marshaled, it needs to become public.

"In my view, the truth of what the chain of command did has to come out," Hudson says.

"Because they're just as equally evil as the perpetrators in my view."

Hudson has spent most of the last ten years attending school in Germany and the Netherlands, and is now in Kingston attempting to resume the military career he lost long ago as he looks to become a signals officer.

He gives a lot of credit to the counsellors at the CAF's Sexual Misconduct Response Center for helping him get to the level of acceptance he is at.

He added that Lieutenant Colonel Eleanor Taylor speaking out was a hugely influential factor in him coming forward with his own allegations.

Hudson says around 2017 he started to have hope that the culture in the Canadian Military was changing for the better, especially when it comes to the handling of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

Despite this, the Department of National Defence continues to be under scrutiny for their handling of sexual misconduct. In October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that senior military commanders just "don't get it." This came after the Ottawa Citizen revealed that a senior officer who provided a reference for a convicted sex offender had been quietly tasked with a new job.

As recently as Thursday, Canada's new minister of defence, Anita Anaand, announced the transfer of investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct with the Canadian Forces to civilian court, though it's not clear when the change will go into effect.

While women continue to be disproportionately affected by sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, experts say that men continue to under-report instances of sexual misconduct. In 2018 alone, 800 men in the regular force and primary reserves reported having experienced at least one type of sexual assault in the past 12 months.

Hudson is currently part of the CAF-DND Class Action Lawsuit that has received 13,447 claims to date.

That number has nearly doubled in the past week as the November 24 deadline approaches.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News

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