Women harassed at work say they do not trust the authorities to take their side, so few report the episodes. “Unfortunately, this is a problem not only of the Ukrainian Army, but of our society,” said Alona Kryvuliak of La Strada Ukraine, a group opposing gender discrimination. “These cases kill the inner motivation for women to seek help.”
Ukraine, of course, is hardly the only country with sexual abuse in the military. This year, Senator Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican who was the first American female fighter pilot to fly in combat, told a committee hearing that a superior officer in the Air Force had raped her, and that when she tried to report it to military officials she “felt like the system was raping me all over again.”
For Lieutenant Sikal, the trip to the summerhouse on Jan. 3, 2018, was just the start. There, sitting with the police chief, Lieutenant Sikal said the colonel boasted of the attractive junior officers under his command. He then asked her to kiss the policeman, she said.
“He bragged that he had two young, new female lieutenants and suggested we all take a sauna together,” she said, her voice trembling.
For months, she said, daily harassment ensued and she tried a variety of ways to escape him. She tried hiding and directly confronting him with a plea to stop. Nothing worked.
“His apartment was one floor above mine” in the barracks, she said. “He was coming drunk, checking my underwear in the drawers of my nightstand. Once, he said my sofa was good and suggested we check it.”
Every new rejection caused further humiliation, punitive reprimands and senseless orders, she said.
“I was not a human for him,” Lieutenant Sikal said.