5@5 Your Questions Answered About Navy Sexual Assault Prevention

We asked for your questions last Tuesday on Facebook about the Navy’s recently expanded initiatives to combat sexual assault. While we couldn’t answer all of them, the questions and answers below represent a variety of the questions asked.

What are your questions about the ‪#‎USNavy‬’s recently expanded initiatives to combat sexual assault? Read about them at http://ow.ly/ntlUm and check next week for the blog with answers to your questions.


Susan Deal Anderson I went through the list of court proceedings you posted the other day, Cases involving sexual crimes that went to trial were overwhelmingly found not guilty. There were 18 not guilty and only 5 found guilty. (and two of those were child porn, so actual assaults only 3 out of 21 trials were guilty) This lends credibility to the perception that upper level officers ignore or do not beleive claims of sexual assault. How do you explain the discrepency in the guilty vs not guilty verdicts.? Are your prosecutors filing bad cases or are you just plain unwilling to convict people of sexual assault? While your transparency was commendable, the results were frightening. One seems to be much better off sexually assaulting someone than stealing something, Three out of 21, something's very wrong.

Susan, Sexual assault cases are among the most difficult to try.

All of our cases are fully investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service upon receipt of an allegation. The bulk of Navy cases are not attacks by strangers but instead, the victim and the offender knew each other. Most cases involve alcohol and the question of whether the victim consented to the sexual contact is often the key issue in the case. There is often little or no physical evidence, especially if the report comes in days or weeks after the incident. When victims, witnesses and/or offenders are intoxicated, it affects memory and makes these cases especially difficult to prosecute.

During the same reporting period you note, we had an additional 22 guilty plea court martial cases involving sex crimes, which all resulted in a punishment and, most likely, the requirement to register as a sex offender for life. Our American judicial system, including our military justice system, is an adversarial system that operates under the premise that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. The standard of proof at a Court-Martial is beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard. Also, the accused does not have to “prove” anything but it is the prosecution’s burden to prove the case.  Nonetheless, the Navy is dedicated to prosecuting these cases when the evidence supports prosecution, including those that are tough cases to prove, rather than not going forward because the evidence may not be sufficient to obtain a conviction at the high burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.  It is also worth noting that victims are consulted and provide input throughout the process.

The evidence shows the military is aggressive in prosecuting sexual assaults. In the last two years, the Navy took four cases to trial that civilian jurisdictions would not pursue and obtained a conviction in two of the cases. There are three additional cases pending where the civilian jurisdictions declined to prosecute. In most of our cases the civilian and military authorities both have jurisdiction.

The Navy is actively engaged in sexual assault awareness and training, prevention, victim response, and accountability initiatives. When an incident does occur, the Department of the Navy is dedicated to ensuring victims of sexual assault receive full-spectrum and timely support to include medical treatment, counseling and legal assistance. Since 2009, the Navy JAG Corps has employed a civilian expert in the prosecution of adult sexual assault crimes.  This person has worked on sexual assault policy and training and is assigned to the Trial Counsel Assistance Program.

In addition, one year ago the Department of the Navy hired three additional civilian personnel with recognized knowledge, skills and experience related to sexual assault as “highly qualified experts.” One is an expert in special victim cases with a focus on child victims and is also assigned to the Trial Counsel Assistance Program. Another focuses on sexual assault policy and training and is assigned to the Criminal Law Division. The third is an expert in defending clients charged with crimes including sexual assault and is assigned to the Defense Counsel Assistance Program.  Experience and perspectives from the civilian sector complement and enhance the training and litigation skills of judge advocates who prosecute and defend sexual assault and other complex cases.

Answered by Jen Zeldis, spokesperson for the Office of the Judge Advocate General


Alana Cotto Yes here's a question.......WHY DO THE VICTIMS GET IN TROUBLE???????? How come they get kicked out????? How come the rapist doesn't get in trouble?????????????? I REALLY WANT TO JOIN THE NAVY BUT IM SOOOOOOO SCARED

Alana,

The Department of the Navy takes this issue very seriously and the Navy is committed to eliminating the crime of sexual assault in our ranks.  Even one case of sexual assault in the military is one too many.  Nobody who volunteers to serve our country should be subject to this kind of treatment by those with whom they serve.

This year, the Department of Defense released updated policies and procedures aimed at combating sexual assaults in the military and improving care for victims. The updated policies and procedures provide a framework that improves safety for sexual assault victims, standardizes victim-assistance services across the force, enhances prevention efforts and provides victims added confidence to come forward to report assaults and seek treatment. We need to make sure that we prevent sexual assault from happening, but when it does, provide a response system that can care for people and hold offenders accountable as appropriate.

As to victim misconduct, sometimes victims of sexual assault act in ways that violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice or other rules. Their conduct is not connected to the sexual assault and is called collateral misconduct. For example, a victim of sexual assault may drink alcohol while underage prior to the sexual assault. Policies and procedures require review about the decision to adjudicate victim’s conduct but in the end the victims are subject to the UCMJ and their conduct could result in disciplinary action. However, in cases of serious sexual assaults, disposition determination for victim collateral misconduct is elevated to a Navy captain who is a special court-martial convening authority.  For all allegations of criminal misconduct, we fully investigate them and hold offenders accountable as appropriate. If an offender is sent to court-martial he or she may be punitively discharged. However, even if convicted and not awarded a punitive discharge, the Navy then processes such offenders for separation.

Answered by Jen Zeldis, spokesperson for the Office of the Judge Advocate General


Martin Brammier Curious as to why enlisted are hammered and get the BCD when officers who are found in the same position are merely reprimanded....change starts at the top...rather hard to gain respect as a hypocrite!

 Martin,

The Navy remains steadfastly committed to ensuring that sexual assault cases are fully investigated and prosecuted through a fair, effective and efficient military justice system. There are multiple types of punitive discharges where convicted servicemembers, both officer and enlisted, are removed from military service. A Dismissal is the only punitive discharge imposed on officers and warrant officers.  It is reserved for individuals who should be separated under conditions of dishonor and it may only be awarded at a General Court-Martial. Similar to the Dismissal is the Dishonorable Discharge, but the Dishonorable Discharge is awarded only to enlisted members at a General Court-Martial. Lastly, the Bad Conduct Discharge is a punitive discharge with somewhat less severe consequences than the Dishonorable Discharge. Like the Dishonorable Discharge, the Bad Conduct Discharge can only be given to an enlisted member although it can be awarded at either a General Court-Martial or a Special Court-Martial.  Servicemembers who receive any form of punitive discharge, a Dismissal, a Dishonorable Discharge, or a Bad Conduct Discharge, are not entitled to veteran’s benefits and they lose their retirement if they are retirement eligible.

The prosecution and conviction of officer and enlisted offenders have resulted in a range of different punishments to include periods of confinement to punitive discharges for both officers and enlisted.

For example from the latest results of trial, at a General Court-Martial in Washington, D.C., an O-3 pled guilty to possession of child pornography.  On May 21, 2013, the military judge sentenced him to a Dismissal from the service and two years confinement; and at a General Court-Martial in Norfolk, Va., an E-3 pled guilty to failure to obey a general order and possession of child pornography. On Feb. 27, 2013, the military judge sentenced him to a Bad Conduct Discharge and six months confinement.

Answered by Jen Zeldis, spokesperson for the Office of the Judge Advocate General


Brandon Battle When are you going to remove the Chain of Command from the investigation process? Civilians should investigate allegations of Sexual Harassment,not officers who will protect themselves and their careers first and punish the victims for not keeping quiet!!

Brandon,

We believe that preventing and responding to sexual harassment and sexual assault is not just a legal issue, it is a leadership issue. Commanders are accountable for establishing command climates of dignity and respect, incorporating discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention measures into their commands, providing responsive victim support, ensuring all formal reports of sexual harassment are investigated and all unrestricted sexual assault allegations are promptly reported to NCIS and investigated.  Commanders then review those investigations in making disposition determinations and hold offenders appropriately accountable.

Commanders play a critical role in military justice and the due process rights of the accused. They are responsible for the safety, health and welfare of their people and they need the authority commensurate with this responsibility, which includes the authority to maintain good order and discipline. Removing this authority over these serious offenses would deny the commander a vital enforcement tool to ensure a safe workplace, to maintain a healthy command climate promoting dignity and respect for all, and to field a force ready to execute the mission successfully.

Additionally, commanders make informed disciplinary decisions with the advice of experiences Navy judge advocates that review investigative reports, assess the strength of each case, and make charging recommendations. Commanders have a vested interest in the judicial process as a tool to further good order and discipline and they do not make these decisions lightly.

Answered by Jen Zeldis, spokesperson for the Office of the Judge Advocate General


Donnie Bowerman Here's my question: when is the Navy going to get back to being the Navy, and not a bunch of remedial classroom students???

Thanks for your question, Donnie, and I appreciate your concern. When we see a problem, our first step in preventing it from reoccurring is to make sure our Sailors are aware of the problem. Our SAPR training is one step in Navy’s larger plan to address sexual assault prevention. Regardless of the issue, we know that training raises awareness and ensures our Sailors know what they can do to prevent that problem from occurring in the future as we work to eliminate it entirely. SAPR training ensures that every Sailor knows what behavior is and is not acceptable, and how they can intervene if they see their shipmates in any situation with potential negative consequences. Now that this initial fleet-wide training has been completed, our next step is working to address the root causes of the issue and eliminate sexual assault from our Navy. The 21st Century Sailor Office will continue working this issue head-on, utilizing Sailor feedback gained from SAPR training to better tackle this issue. Our people are our most important asset, and without them, we cannot execute our warfighting mission.

My bottom line: Sexual assault within our lifelines is every Sailor and Navy civilian’s problem. We all own it. Training is one aspect of the solution. We’ll be much better Sailors and war fighters if we can stop having to deal with predators from within our ranks. Help me achieve this.

 Answered by Rear Adm. Sean Buck, director, 21st Century Sailor Office (N17)


Additional information and resources to combat sexual assault is available at www.sapr.navy.mil. Sexual assault affects Navy readiness, and the Navy is committed to preventing sexual assault. Join the Navy’s conversation about sexual assault on social media and help raise awareness by using #NavySAPR.

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