Australian warship focus of alleged sex abuse rituals

Australian warship focus of alleged sex abuse rituals

SYDNEY - The Australian navy was Friday investigating allegations of "inappropriate behaviour" reportedly related to bizarre initiation rites in which young sailors were sexually assaulted with pens, bananas and bottles.

The navy did not confirm the nature of the investigation, but said it concerned the Anzac Class Frigate HMAS Ballarat which is currently deployed on border protection operations.

"Allegations such as these are serious and it is critical that the investigative process is properly followed. As such I will not speculate on any aspect of the allegations," chief of navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said in a statement.

"We have dealt with the allegations swiftly and I reiterate that inappropriate behaviour is not consistent with our values and is not tolerated in Navy."

The allegations, the latest in a line of sex scandals to hit Australia's defence force, were reported to the navy on Monday by a sailor and carried up the chain of command for further inquiry.

A former woman sailor has told Channel 10 that crew had long been worried about hazing rituals in which a gang would assault young male colleagues using pens, pencils and water bottles, typically on their birthdays.

"People were set upon by other members, stripped off, and had things essentially put in their bums," the woman, known only as "Bridget", said.

A report in Sydney's Daily Telegraph said the items used in the alleged assaults also included bananas and carrots.

The navy said due to the current location of the HMAS Ballarat, which is believed to have been involved in a rescue at sea off Indonesia, the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service would not be able to join the ship for several days.

"Navy is being as open and transparent as it can about this incident within the limitations of the investigative process," Admiral Griggs said.

The military has been under pressure to address abuse after a Skype scandal in 2011 in which video of a young male recruit having sex with a female classmate was streamed to cadets in another room without her knowledge.

An independent report subsequently detailed 24 allegations of rape within the defence force that never went to trial, among more than 1,000 claims of sexual or other abuse from the 1950s to the present day, involving both men and women.

The report also highlighted brutal initiation ceremonies and depicted a culture of covering up, failing to punish perpetrators and hostility towards victims who complained.

Griggs said the new allegations were "simply not consistent with Navy values".

"Navy does not tolerate inappropriate behaviour and will act accordingly if any of the allegations are substantiated."

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