Too difficult for Defense workers to report abuses: report

Dutch soldier in a training exercise (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Gertrud Zach)Dutch soldier in a training exercise (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Gertrud Zach)

The social security at the Ministry of Defense is inadequate, concluded a committee that investigated the barracks in Schaarsbergen after soldiers who were stationed there reported being abused and sexually assaulted. Because of the closed culture at the Ministry, people are not easily inclined to report such abuses, the researchers said, reports.

"Loyalty is a great thing", and that is important in an organization like Defense, the researchers said. But that also has a downside. "There is a tendency to protect members of their own group, also in the case of boundary crossing behavior, and to deal negatively with colleagues outside the group."

According to the researchers, the number of repots of undesirable behavior is low and the people who did report such behavior told the committee that this had adverse consequences for them.

The committee made a number of recommendations, including establishing an independent reporting hotline to make it easier to report abuses, and making the Defense culture more transparent and diverse.

"I deeply regret that the reporters say they experienced [adverse effects after reporting undesirable behavior]", State Secretary Barbara Visser of Defense said in response to the committee's report. "That is simply unacceptable, there is work to be done."

The report is an "important step in the restoration of Defense", Visser said. "All Defense employees must be able to feel safe together and with the organization. This report shows that we still don't have that in order." The Defense culture ensures that "so many people enjoy working", she said, but added that there is also a "dark side" to that. Commanders and supervisors should get more help in creating safety and people-orientated leadership, she said. 

According to the State Secretary, an independent central reporting hotline will be established using Defense's central integrity organization COID. "All employees can have confidence in this. We will also increase the capacity and expand the powers. COID will also ensure that quality and independence are better safeguarded in internal investigations. In addition, there will be a better registration system for reports, in which the privacy of reporters is better guaranteed."