Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert will testify with other senior service leaders before Congress about sexual assault in the military on Tuesday.
Last Thursday, we asked you, “What would you ask them?” We received a lot of great questions about this tough and sensitive topic. Below are some of those questions and our responses. We encourage you to continue the conversation about this important topic.
Erika, the Navy has been tackling this crime head on. Our greatest weapon against the crime of sexual assault is engaged and concerned leadership.Our goal is to foster a command climate that encourages reporting assault, while providing support to victims and appropriately holding those responsible accountable. We have undertaken large-scale efforts to combat sexual assault by instituting a pilot program at Great Lakes and now San Diego. We are reinforcing previous training in support of the overall DoD effort to emphasize the commitment to eliminate sexual assault from the military. Recently, we announced a service-wide stand-down where commanders and leaders will engage with all service members to reinforce Sexual Assault Prevention and Response principles and instill a climate of dignity and respect within the Navy workplace.
Rob, sexual assault is a problem being confronted across American society. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted about every two minutes. The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reported 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. The DoD Annual Report on Sexual Assault included a Center for Disease Control study that compares the prevalence of sexual violence between civilians, active-duty women and military wives. The study found among women in the general population aged 18 to 59 years, 40.3 percent reported experiencing contact sexual violence in their lifetime, compared to 36.3 percent of active-duty military women, and 32.8 percent of wives of active-duty men.
Members of Congress and advocacy groups have focused their attention on the Armed Forces. Whether that scrutiny and the resulting media attention is fairly focused in light of the statistics mentioned above, the Navy does hold itself to a higher standard. Our women and men in uniform agree to put their life on the line to defend the United States. In order to do that effectively, they must be safe among their shipmates and should be able to rely on their shipmates to keep a watchful eye out for those who would offend. This is why the Navy is focused on the prevention of sexual assault, the care of victims and holding perpetrators appropriately accountable.
Cinda, preventing and eliminating sexual assault from our ranks is an all hands effort. While we have many women serving throughout the Navy as commanding officers, sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, it is important to note that our top two sexual assault prevention and response team leaders are women. Jill Loftus serves as director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for the Department of the Navy. She is the principal point of accountability for all sexual assault policy matters and is the primary resource for expert SAPR assessment, program support, and oversight.
Tammy O’Rourke is the chief of Naval Installations Command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Manager. She is responsible for executing the SAPR program and policies of the Navy and provides oversight of the sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocators to include training and certification.
A victim is never to blame for the crime of sexual assault. It takes courage to step forward as a victim to get help and highlight the responsibility shipmates have to support victims and make them feel safe in their units. We encourage victim reporting, whether restricted or unrestricted, so victims can receive all available services and support, and to hold offenders accountable. Victims can receive support 24/7 through trained victim advocates and sexual assault response coordinators. Additionally, an anonymous and confidential Department of Defense helpline operated by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network is available for victims seeking help outside their chain of command.
John, we are committed to investigating all cases thoroughly and professionally and to appropriately hold perpetrators accountable through an effective system of justice. Basic principles of justice require us to award punishment based on the specifics of each case. Every jurisdiction, civilian and military, allows those convicted of offenses to present evidence supporting why their sentence should be limited. For military personnel, this evidence often includes length and quality of honorable service. For example, awarding a bad-conduct discharge to a retirement eligible chief, would in effect, include the loss of significant retirement income. Thus, a bad-conduct discharge is a more severe punishment for the chief than it would be for a first tour E-3. Treating “everyone the same” despite differences in fact-specificsentencing considerations would be no less unfair than awarding the same sentence irrespective of the crime.
Ripley, you’re doing it right! Dialogue and education are absolutely a major line of defense in the prevention of sexual assault. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children who are entering the naval service about their attitudes towards others and how important it is to treat their shipmates with dignity and respect. Encourage them to intervene as a bystander if they ever find themselves in that situation.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SexualAssault.
More information about Navy sexual assault prevention, posters and other tools are posted to Navy Personnel Command’s Sexual Assault and Prevention website.
For help and support in dealing with a sexual assault, resources are available through:
Safe Helpline (for service members):
● Visit safehelpline.org to receive live, one-on-one confidential help with a trained professionals through a secure instant-messaging format.
● Call 1-877-995-5247 to speak with Safe Helpline staff for personalized advice and support.
● Text your location to 55247 inside the United States or 202-470-5546 outside of the United States to receive automated contact information for the sexual assault response coordinator at your installation or base. A sexual assault victim advocate may be assigned to assist you.
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network:
● Visit https://ohl.rainn.org/online/ for free, confidential and secure help that is just a click away.
● Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to speak with trained, professional counselors for advice or support.