“One brother another slapped me on the buttocks – climbed with kisses, another said that he was not indifferent and ready to testify”.
So about service in the army, recalls Yana, a 38-year-old health instructor.
The woman was discharged from the army in June this year, when she became a caregiver for her seriously ill mother, who died shortly after. Yana is single, raising a 13-year-old daughter.
Eksviyskova told “Ukrainian Pravda. Life” about what she faced in the service, namely courtship and sexist jokes from her peers.
The lawyer of the human rights center for servicemen “Princip” told about the algorithm of actions in case of harassment Anna Pashkina.
We also asked the Ministry of Defense for information on the number of similar cases in the army, but we did not receive a response.
“After his touches, I gave up washing the kettle“
|Photo: Sinenkiy/Getty Images|
In civilian life, Yana was engaged in various things, from sewing to polishing cars, and she is a chemist by profession.
However, since 2015, Yana tried on the position of a military doctor.
She says that her wish came true in September 2022, when she was enrolled in the army, and the position of health instructor was indicated in her military ticket.
“I found herself on duty in the middle of October last year and performed the duties of either a paramedic or a medical instructor, but in any case a medic in a unit with almost a hundred soldiers“, – says the woman.
For every hundred men, says Yana, there were a dozen women – among them the woman found a stepmother with whom she became friends.
Yana told her about everything that she could not share with others. In particular, Yana shared a story that happened to her in the middle of the day at the medical center, when a soldier visited her.
The man complained of a flu-like condition.
“He asked for a pill – I spent it on him a precious drug at that time. Then he came closer to me and wanted to feel and kiss me, grabbed my chest. I pushed him away with my hands as hard as I could – he is a little taller, obviously physically stronger, but I managed to break free from his embrace“, says the paramedic.
After that, the fighter left the medical center. Then the woman saw him for the first and last time.
“That evening I gave up washing the boiler. Fortunately, I had a change of clothes“– added Exviyskova.
“Beautiful woman, I’ll slap her ass”
|Photo: Oksana Shufrych/Getty Images|
Yana’s battalion was stationed in Donetsk region. There were military personnel who supported the life of the point – guards, cooks, nachmed, etc.
“People in the army are very different. It is like a cross-section of societies: there are unworthy people, fortunately a minority of them. Incidents that were disgusting to me occurred in a uniformly thin layer. The attitude towards the majority was mutually normal, business-like with respect“, – says the former military woman.
In the episode, the woman begins to talk about the incident that happened to Yana from afar, in particular, she touches on the topic of her appearance.
“I did not use cosmetics, I looked absolutely modest, I did not stand out in anything. All the time, she perceived herself as a servicewoman, not a woman“says the woman.
A few soldiers and a morale officer gathered outside to discuss immediate plans. Yana was standing with them.
When the conversation was coming to an end, the officer slapped the soldier on the buttocks.
“I didn’t immediately understand what happened. The crowd laughed and left.”the woman says.
Yana had an official relationship with the officer, she says, once he treated her to something sweet.
“Half the battalion periodically treated me. For me, this is a normal, healthy relationship with most people.
And it looks like this: “Kragray haired woman, oh, I’ll slap her ass“. This gesture seems to acknowledge my special attractiveness and femininity. I’m sure he had no desire to have any more intimate relationships, but just the perception of a woman like me “the beauty of the team“, then why not slap me or let me go some stupid joke“, – says Yana.
Due to sexist jokes, the woman has argued more than once with those who tell them.
Read also: Over 60% of Ukrainians believe that it is more difficult for women to build a career in the army – survey
“He came from behind and kissed the neck”
|Photo: Valerii Heorhiian/Getty Images|
Yana had only her own body for self-defense.
“Keven if you have a weapon, another person may also have a weapon in their hands. And she may be more experienced than you, so there may be big problems, not to be compared with the ones that some kind of scum caught you. I was able to return home without being raped. It’s good“, – says the woman.
Another time, Yana recalls, at night she had to hide from her brother, who was forced out of the room by his sisters.
A soldier entered the woman’s room and laid down in bed with her. She wrote to Yana with a request for help.
When the intoxicated soldier was taken out of the nurse’s room, Yana was afraid that the man would not come to her.
The woman spent some time of that sleepless night in the toilet, hiding.
In the morning, only memories remained, because all the military returned to work.
We had to pretend that nothing had happened after the incident in the restroom, where Yana went to wash her hands.
A brother came in after the woman.
The man had the rank of sergeant and lived in a room on the same floor as Yana. The friendliness in their relationship was reinforced by the fact that periodically someone came to visit someone.
“He came up behind me and kissed my neck while I was washing my hands. Everything was silent, I was in a state of shock. I finished my work and left thinking: “God” – touching a complete stranger’s body, phew“, – the woman recalls.
After the incident, Yana wiped her neck with napkins.
“I began to feel an aversion to him. For me it was a shock, but for him it was everyday. And this is the man who said that he has a wife“, – adds the woman.
Read also: The form of our dignity: what should be the clothing for military women
“They are ruled by impunity“
|Photo: Oksana Shufrych/Getty Images|
According to Yana, men of her age or older dared to violate personal boundaries.
Most of them were married or engaged.
Yana wore a ring on her middle finger, which her daughter gave her before the start of the service. Sometimes it was taken for a wedding ring.
“Sometimes they paid attention to her and asked what she was talking about. I said it like it is“, – says the woman.
Courting married men was regarded by the former military as bad manners. Only my sister told about them.
“Men are ruled by impunity, in my opinion, but to declare to someone on the mountain about such manifestations seemed absolutely hopeless and hopeless to me. It is so far, you have to shout loud and loud, and most likely you will be harmed directly at the place of service – sooner yes than someone will help“, – says Yana.
What is considered a crime?
|Photo: Sinenkiy/Getty Images|
According to the Criminal Code, the crime is:
- rape (Article 152 of the Criminal Code), i.e. committing acts of a sexual nature, related to vaginal, anal or oral penetration into the body of another person using the genitals or any other object, without voluntary consent;
- sexual violence (Article 153 of the Criminal Code) – committing any violent acts of a sexual nature, not related to penetration into the body of another person, without voluntary consent;
- coercion to enter into sexual intercourse (Article 154 of the Criminal Code).
“A slap on the butt or a kiss on the neck by a stranger without consent is fine a subspecies of sexual violence. At the same time, there is no comprehensive list of actions that belong to sexual harassment or violence“, – says lawyer Anna Pashkina.
What to do if you witness a crime:
If a military man or woman becomes a witness or a victim of a crime, in order for the offender to bear responsibility, the legal expert advises to collect information about the crime. Namely:
- how and when it happened;
- where (address, what kind of premises, landmarks, etc.);
- contacts of eyewitnesses to the crime – people or, for example, video surveillance cameras;
- contacts of possible eyewitnesses of the event;
- information about the offender (name, position, contacts);
- evidence of a crime.
“Evidence can be of any kind, the main thing is convincing. Recording of a voice recorder or even a video camera, correspondence, physical injuries, remains of DNA of the offender on the clothes of the victim, testimony of witnesses, etc.” – says the lawyer.
The human rights defender advises the victim to find a lawyer, as such cases are complex and morally exhausting.
“Before reporting sexual assault to command or law enforcement, you should consult an attorney to properly assess and legally qualify what happened, develop a strategy and defense plan, prepare a written statement, and submit it.” – says Pashkina.
Next, report the incident to your manager.
“If the offender is a platoon commander, his company commander should be notified. If the offender’s immediate commander does not take action, it is necessary to contact higher-level command (including the unit commander and the General Staff of the Armed Forces) until there is an appropriate response.” – adds the lawyer.
After a corresponding appeal, the head must appoint an official investigation.
In the event that the command of the unit refuses, and also does not report the crime to law enforcement agencies, the affected person can file a complaint directly with the manager.
This is regulated by Article 426 of the Criminal Code “Inaction of the military authorities“says the lawyer.
Report the situation to law enforcement.
“A statement about a crime must be submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation, the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office in the military and defense sphere, as well as to the Military Law and Order Service,” – says Anna.
Which are “pitfalls“
Sexual violence against military personnel is a war crime and is punishable under the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
However, according to the lawyer, one of the biggest problems during the investigation of such crimes is the lack of evidence and witnesses.
“Sexual harassment or rape usually happens without witnesses. There are the words of the victim or the victim and there are the words of the rapist, who is often higher in rank, therefore more authoritative.” – says Pashkina.
She adds that law enforcement agencies do not promptly respond to such statements, accordingly do not enter information into the EDPR and do not start an investigation.
Time plays into the hands of the offender.
“Victims rarely have physical injuries after violence or, if they do, they disappear by the time an examination is carried out. This is negative evidence. Sometimes, due to a lack of evidence, law enforcement agencies either do not start the investigation process at all, or they are quickly closed due to the lack of a crime.” – adds the human rights defender.
What can be the punishment for the offender
|Photo: Sinenkiy/Getty Images|
According to the lawyer, the perpetrator can be removed from work after the investigation begins (on the basis of the decision of the investigating judge at the request of the investigator or prosecutor).
At the same time, in practice, this method is ineffective, says Anna.
“From the moment the crime is reported to the passing of a positive court decision on suspension, a lot of time can pass, during which the serviceman can feel various negative effects.” Anna explains.
It is more effective to transfer the offender to another military unit for the period of investigation.
The victim may ask the investigator or prosecutor about this before the investigation begins.
“The disciplinary statute of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also provides for the removal of the offender from the performance of official duties by order of the commander. However, for such removal, according to Article 47 of this statute, there must be “severe consequences”, and this concept is not unambiguous.” – added the lawyer.
Anastasia Poya, “Ukrainian Pravda. Life“
Read also: “Foreign media see war crimes as an attraction with a room of fear.” Human rights activist Larisa Denysenko on sexual violence