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Defence chiefs are “sneaking out” of paying out money to women soldiers who are the victims of rape and sexual assault by misdiagnosing them as suffering from personality disorders, a lawyer has claimed. Ahmed Al-Nahhas, Partner and Head of Military Claims at Bolt Burdon Kemp, was commenting on a report published earlier this week suggesting hundreds have been declared by the military’s departments of community mental health (DCMH) as suffering from mental health problems, and medically discharged.
According to the figures compiled by Salute Her UK, a charity for female military personnel who have experienced sexual assault and rape, of 393 referrals received in the past year, 133 of the women were diagnosed with a personality disorder. All were below the age of 27.
Asked the reason why so many appeared to be being misdiagnosed, Mr Al-Nahhas told Express.co.uk: “I think it’s simple: money.
“The MoD face hundreds of claims every year and Servicewomen are losing their careers as a result of bad behaviour and sexual crime.
“If the MoD are able to blame the victim’s condition on past trauma or other issues, then they muddy the water and sneak out of paying out vast sums for loss of career, benefits and pension.”
Mr Al-Nahhas referred to a report published by the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, chaired by Sarah Atherton MP, last year, based on the evidence of more than 4,100 women in the services.
This indicated that 62 percent had complained of bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape or some form of harassment or discrimination during the course of their military careers.
He warned: “These recent cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
“We know that victims of sexual crime tend to remain damaged for many years and many are afraid to come forward and raise a complaint, so we can infer it is a bigger problem than we know.
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“The MoD is the only organisation able to truly shed light on the scale of the problem, but this won’t happen if they keep sweeping things under the carpet.”
Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this week, Salute Her UK Chief Executive Paula Edwards told the Telegraph: “It is a worrying pattern. A woman is raped so she goes to DCMH.
“She’s understandably all over the place. She might be suicidal.
“But instead of the medical practitioner seeing it as post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], they diagnose her with a personality disorder.
“You can’t serve in the military with this diagnosis, which enables the military to get rid of the problem.”
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Commenting on the report on her website last year, Tory MP for Wrexham Ms Atherton said: “Women make a vital and valued contribution to our Armed Forces and to our country. However, serious challenges remain.
“Female personnel are more likely to make complaints, more likely to report mental health difficulties and more likely to be subject to sexual assaults.”
It was important to understand the scale, nature and root of the challenges that female personnel face, Ms Atherton stressed.
She added: “Only then can we begin to address the incidence in which the services have failed female serving personnel and identify the solutions.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the MoD for comment.
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