The British Army has launched an investigation into the tragic suicide of Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley Beck, a 19yr old soldier, after she endured relentless sexual harassment by a senior officer.
The incident, which occurred in December 2021 at Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire, has shed light on the persistent issue of harassment within the armed forces.
According to a service inquiry report obtained by the BBC, Gunner Beck faced an “intense period of unwelcome behaviour” from her immediate superior, which is believed to have been a significant factor in her decision to take her own life.
The report, due to be published soon, details how this behavior continued for two months leading up to her tragic death.
The report further reveals the extent of the harassment Gunner Beck endured, stating that her superior desired a romantic relationship with her, despite her being in a committed relationship with a boyfriend who she had no intention of leaving.
The officer inundated her with over 1,000 WhatsApp messages and voicemails in October 2021, escalating to more than 3,500 the following month. These messages displayed controlling behavior, with constant demands for reassurance and an aversion to the idea of her being with someone else.
In the weeks before her death, Gunner Beck reached a breaking point and messaged her superior, saying, “I can’t handle it any more. It’s weighing me down.” Tragically, her cries for help went unanswered.
Speaking to the BBC, Gunner Beck’s mother, Leighann McCready, expressed her daughter’s despair after enduring months of harassment. “She was always down,” McCready stated. “She was fed up with his behavior. It started ruining a job that she really enjoyed doing.”
What is particularly significant about this case is the Army’s admission that the sexual harassment Gunner Beck faced was a direct causal factor in her death, as noted by the family’s lawyer, Emma Norton, from the Centre for Military Justice.
Norton emphasized the gravity of this admission, saying, “I am not aware of another case where this has been admitted. This is obviously of enormous concern to the family.”
Tragically, this was not the first time Gunner Beck had faced harassment within the military. The report details an earlier incident where she was sexually assaulted by another senior officer, which she reported.
However, the reporting process was mishandled, leading to minor sanctions for the perpetrator and a letter of apology from him to Gunner Beck.
This incident discouraged her from seeking help again, as she felt her concerns were not taken seriously.
Her mother revealed the trauma her daughter experienced, saying, “She thought she would be seen as a female troublemaker.”
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The report also highlights a concerning culture of harassment within Larkhill Garrison, describing it as “commonplace amongst a significant minority of soldiers.” It wasn’t until November 2022 that measures were introduced to address such behavior in the armed forces.