Australia's defense force, already under fire for racist comments made by soldiers serving in Afghanistan, was rocked by another scandal Wednesday when a young woman accused a fellow cadet of secretly filming a sexual encounter between the pair and broadcasting it to his friends.
The 18-year-old woman told Australia's Ten Network that she had consensual sex with a fellow first-year cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy, but said the man secretly filmed the encounter and transmitted it via Skype to six other military students.
The woman, whose identity has not been released, said she had no idea she had been filmed until defense officials told her. Photos of the encounter were also circulated around the academy, she said.
"It was like my whole world came crashing down around me," the woman said. "They had to read the statements that the boys had to make and I actually threw up."
Defense Minister Stephen Smith said federal police and the defense department were investigating.
The scandal comes at a delicate time for the defense force, which was heavily criticized last month after racist, expletive-laden comments made by Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan were aired on social and broadcast media. In video footage posted on Facebook, soldiers were heard using racist terms in reference to Afghans, including describing them as "smelly locals."
That incident prompted Smith to apologize to his Afghan counterpart, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Smith said the woman's case was being taken very seriously, and urged defense personnel to treat her with "civility and dignity."
"In those circumstances, I can't think of a greater betrayal of trust of a colleague in the workplace than the suggestions that have been made," Smith told reporters. "Once that trust is destroyed, then it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the person who has broken that trust to remain a defense force personnel member."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard also addressed the allegations, saying female defense force members deserve to be treated with dignity.
"I want them (women) respected in every sense of the word," Gillard told reporters in Brisbane. "We ask the people of our defense force to do remarkable things for this nation. They shouldn't have their trust abused or their dignity stripped away from them."