What It Will Take To End Sexual Assault In The Military
The epidemic of military sexual assault requires continued pursuit of reform. With that in mind, we recently introduced the FAIR Military Act, which is aimed at eliminating bias in the military justice system and increasing accountability among all levels of the military.
A pervasive cultural flaw is plaguing our armed forces.
The Department of Defenses Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal year 2013, released last month, revealed a rise in reported sexual assaults. Rather than signal what might have been the early success of recent legislative and military changes signed into law over the past few years, the increase in incidents means these heinous crimes continue to occur at an alarming rate, to both men and women.
As Congress, advocacy, and survivor groups dig further toward the roots of the issue, one thing has become clear: A widespread problem necessitates widespread accountability.
Among other things, the FAIR Military Act would limit the use of the good soldier defense, which allows a defendant to cite unrelated, subjective factors during trial, such as military record as a defense against sexual assault charges. It would also require commanders and service members to be assessed on their actions related to sexual assault prevention. And it confronts failures in the current system by improving specific elements in the areas of prevention, protection, and prosecution.
Military Justice System Problems Go Beyond Sexual Assaults
First Lt. Brian Santana Overton, 27, joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 2014 seeking economic opportunities that he otherwise wouldn’t have access to in Puerto Rico.
Brian Santana Overton and Amy Marsh in 2018 at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California. The repercussions of Marsh reporting to the military that she was raped by a sergeant almost destroyed their marriage.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in April at a news conference outside the Capitol building, Washington, D.C. With assault survivor Amy Marsh and retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen standing behind her, Gillibrand introduced her proposed legislation for reforming the military justice system.
It’s time to break ties with King George III and have a real justice system that protects the rights of an accused and delivers justice to those people who have been victimized.
Retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen
President of Protect Our Defenders
Justice For Military Sexual Assault Victims
A Department of Defense report found that many soldiers don’t report their sexual assaults to military leaders, allowing offenders to skirt punishment, and victims who do report their assaults experience retaliation and often don’t have their cases taken to a court martial.
of sexual assault offenses led to administrative discharge or action
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that Mitchell’s case was referred to a special court martial.
Sexual Assault In The United States Military
Sexual assault in the United States armed forces is an ongoing issue which has received extensive media coverage in the past. A 2012 Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted that year of those, only 3,374 cases were reported. In 2013, a new Pentagon report found that 5,061 troops reported cases of assault. Of the reported cases, only 484 cases went to trial 376 resulted in convictions. Another investigation found that one in five women in the United States Air Force who were sexually assaulted by service members reported it, for one in 15 men.
A survey for the Department of Defense conducted in 2015 found that in the past year 52% of active service members who reported sexual assault had experienced retaliation in the form of professional, social, and administrative actions or punishments. In addition to retaliation against soldiers remaining in active service, many former service members who reported sexual assaults were forced to leave after being discharged. Reasons for discharge included having a “personality disorder” or engaging in misconduct related to the sexual assault such as fraternization or homosexuality, even if the homosexual conduct was non-consensual.
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How Can We Address Sexual Violence Within The Us Military
Since the release of new reports on sexual violence in the military, there have been lots of questions about how to address sexual violence within such a large system. First, note that rape culture exists in every institution, and this problem is not unique to the military. What is unique about this issue is that the military has identified sexual violence as a major issue, dedicated attention and resources to addressing it, and are held increasingly more accountable for making changes by both grassroots advocacy groups and the U.S. government.
The DoD reports on incidence and prevalence of both sexual assault and sexual harassment within active duty branches and military service academies since receiving a directive from the U.S. Congress in 2005. At that time, they established the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to help promote internal accountability and more effective prevention and response activities. The CDC released a special report on violence experienced by military service members as part of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey data.
Many survivors describe being ostracized and blamed by fellow service members for destroying the cohesion of the unit after reporting their abuse, even if disciplinary action against the perpetrator is not taken.
How have you been successful in your systems advocacy efforts in partnership with military installations in your own community?
Useful Regulations On Sexual Assault
NOTE: Regs. in this area are subject to update check MLTFs web site for the latest links
DoD is required to maintain a Safe Helpline to ensure that military personnel are provided with specialized hotline assistance whenever and wherever needed.
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A Guide To Sexual Assault And Sexual Harassment Policiesin The Us Armed Forces For Servicemembersmsv Survivors And Their Advocates
Rev. Date: 2017 July
Kathy Johnson, Jim Klimaski, Jon Pinkus, David Gespass, Jeff Lake and Brad Thomson assisted in editing this publication. Digital production by Rena Guay.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment have long been serious problems in the armed forces. In recent years, the issue has received far more notice and it is now generally acknowledged that the problem is and likely always has been epidemic. DoDs own reports reveal that over 4,700 service members, both men and women, reported they were assaulted in 2015. Experts point out it is likely that only one in ten people report their assaults. The DoD reports show that many members are afraid to report assaults or harassment. This is often out of fear of command retaliation. When reports are made, they are often ignored or retaliation does, in fact, occur. This phenomenon, too, has been longstanding but has only recently come to public attention.
This publication gives an overview of the policy for reporting sexual assault and harassment, along with remedies for retaliation and harassment critical information everyone in the military should have before they need it. It is written for assault and harassment victims/survivors, but it is just as useful for other servicemembers and for lay counselors or attorneys assisting victims in securing their rights.
Sexual Assault Against Men
The Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, rising from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, most involved attacks on men, predominantly by other men. Recent statistics show that in terms of number of assaults, “the majority of the victims are men.” It also states that although rare, women have previously aided men in sexually assaulting other women. According to statistics released by the Department of Defense, in the 2012 fiscal year more men were victims of sexual abuse than women. Turchik and Wilson found that, “one problem that may be unique for men is confusion concerning sexual identity, masculinity, and sexual orientation after an assault, especially if the perpetrator is a man,” and that “homosexual victims mayâ¦feel that the assault was a punishment for being gay, whereas heterosexual victims may feel confused about sexuality and masculinity, especially if their body sexually responded during the assault.”
Studies of male sexual assault victims have shown that they become more prone to emotional, physical, and social difficulties after being assaulted, which is comparable to women. This shows that “egardless of the victim’s genderâ¦the consequences of sexual assault are both far reaching and acute.”
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Sexual Assault Prevention And Response Office
In 2004, the Department of Defense created the Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force, whose findings indicated the need for a more powerful and centralized organization to address the issue. This led to the formation of the Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, which eventually transitioned into the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office .
“The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office now serves as the Department’s single point of authority for sexual assault policy and provides oversight to ensure that each of the Service’s programs complies with DoD policy. It quickly obtained approval of DoD Instruction 6495.02, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures, making permanent all elements of the Department’s sexual assault policy. In addition, it conducted a training conference for all SARCs.SAPRO, under the leadership of Major General Jeffrey J. Snow, continues to lead the Department’s effort to transform into action its commitment to sexual assault prevention and response. This undertaking enjoys the support of leaders at all levels, and it will create a climate of confidence and trust where everyone is afforded respect and dignity.”
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Does our current approach to training reduce the risk of sexual assault and harassment? I believe that the armys current approach to sexual assault training does reduce risk of sexual assault. Every day new and effective training methods on sexual assault are being implemented in the army. There is a 24/7 SHARP hotline that can be utilized by anyone at any time. Many resources are posted online regarding ways to report sexual assault. New soldiers are being trained to use the method if you see something say something. The army has become more and more aware of ways to prevent sexual assault. People come from all over the world to join the united states army. Many people are being exposed to cultures they have never seen before. Everyone needs to Embrace new things with an open mind and not be scared.
All soldiers have a voice and they need to be confident in using it. It is a common attribute of lower enlisted to be intimidated of higher ups. I dont believe this is okay. Fear is something that holds you back. Fear can stop you from pursuing the better of two choices. Instead of brushing off something due to fear we all need to speak up. Having respect for rank is perfect, however having fear is wrong. If a private sees a staff sergeant doing something wrong, they should make it known. A climate of trust and accountability is key in prevent all wrongs not just sexual assault.
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Columbine Sandy Hook Parkland Uvalde What Do We Do Now
To address the issue of lack of accountability, the bill requires that commanders be assessed in two new areas: first, on their ability to properly handle reports of sexual assault and second, on their ability to create a climate where a victim can report a crime without fear of retaliation. Also, with the revelation of the prevalence of these crimes at all levels of the military, this bill takes the critical step of extending sexual assault prevention measures from past legislation to the military service academies.
The legislation will encourage more efficient implementation of recently enacted laws by requiring the Defense Department to better inform Congress of its sexual assault prevention policies. In addition, it directs an independent panel to evaluate the process in which a victims mental health is admitted as evidence to a trial, and what impact that could have on that victims future wellbeing.
It is the next step in an ongoing process to address military sexual assault, which has proven to be a multifaceted challenge that no one piece of legislation can solve. Recent years have seen multiple historic, important, and bipartisan bills authored by a variety of lawmakers men and women, Republicans and Democrats, representatives and senators to address military sexual assault. They provide numerous tools aimed at increasing reporting and prosecutions and better supporting survivors.
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Theres No Substitute For A Commander Who Does It Right
One proposal before Congress would strip commanders of the legal authority to refer cases to court-martial, and transfer that authority to an entity outside the chain of command. This proposal lacks merit, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the current military justice system, and, if enacted, would fundamentally weaken the military.
The military exists to defend the nation: This is its mission. To accomplish that mission, leaders must ensure that those who serve under them are combat ready, and once ordered into armed conflict, combat effective. Maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces is essential to accomplishing the mission.
Those who have not served in the military have a difficult time understanding the concept of good order and discipline in the armed forces. While civilians may understand the concept in theory, without living and experiencing the reality, they may not fully grasp why the military justice system diverges from the civilian justice system, which places charging powers in prosecutors. The military is different in a key respect: its mission. Commanders exist to carry out the mission, and as such, must retain the full legal authority to do just that, including but not limited to the authority to refer cases to court-martial.
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Prevention Capabilities Are Wanting
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III called for immediate action to combat what he described as the persistent and corrosive problem of sexual violence in the military. We’ve been working at this for a long time in earnest, he said, but we haven’t gotten it right.RAND’s report, pulling together lessons and strategies from nearly two dozen RAND studies, began as a memo to Austin to help strengthen those efforts.
The military has worked hard in recent years to raise awareness about the problem, researchers noted. But it now needs to take a big step forward, making investments and changing the culture in ways that will prevent it.
It reminds me of the 1980s, when we were still doing ‘Just Say No,’ thinking that awareness was going to be enough to stop kids from using drugs, said Matthew Chinman, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND who codeveloped Getting to Outcomes, a guide to help military bases implement more-effective prevention programs. Then we learned that you need more robust programs and trainings and staff to make it happen. The military is still in the early stages of figuring out what it’s going to take.
RAND’s recommendations look further upstream, at what the military can do to create a safe environment long before investigators and prosecutors are needed.
Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures
DoD recently told Congress that sexual harassment complaints can now be made anonymously. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the regulations, so that there is not information about the process. It is likely, though not certain, that anonymous complaints could be made through the IG.
Your command should have an EO officer whose job includes training on sexual harassment issues and assisting service members who have harassment or discrimination complaints. This person is likely to be enlisted, rather than an officer, and EO is sometimes collateral duty, rather than the EO officers primary MOS or rate. Skill levels, support and interest can vary a great deal from one EO officer to another. While you may need to contact the EO officer in making or following up on a complaint, he or she should be approached with some caution. There is no confidentiality with an EO officer, and his or her official responsibility is to the command rather than you. While EO officers may be vigorous and supportive advocates, you shouldnt assume the person is there for you.
Formal sexual harassment complaints are taken more seriously. These are made in writing and require a written response, thus creating a better record if an appeal or other action is necessary. The Army uses DA Form 7279-R for complaints the Navy uses NAVPERS 5354/2 the Marine Corps has no form the Air Force uses a Formal Complaint Summary, AF IMT 1587.
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Factors In Military Culture That Influence Sexual Assault And Reporting
Value on performance: Leaders may minimize or dismiss claims against high performers as a result of the value placed on individual and team performance.
Problem resolution at the lowest level: Service members are expected to resolve conflicts between themselves, which can result in harassment and assault going unreported.
Movement of military personnel: Movement of personnel is essential for professional development but allows perpetrators to take advantage of others who are new to the unit.
Team allegiance: Reporting a team member can be seen as a form of team betrayal. Other team members may feel that reporting is unnecessarily making a big deal.
Leadership responsibility: When reports are made, leaders may feel that they will be blamed for allowing such an environment to exist. They may not want to act on incidents.
Military reporting system: Reporting is a complicated process. While service members can choose to report privately, that confidentiality can be difficult to maintain.
Military resilience building programs: Service members are trained to cope in stressful situations. This emphasis on resilience may actually prevent people from getting help.
Prior restrictions on job assignments: For many years, women were restricted from positions that led to promotion, sending the message that they were not as valuable as men.