Creating a Command Climate Intolerant of Sexual Assault

By Rear Adm. Sean S. Buck
Director, Twenty-First Century Sailor Office (N17) 

Responsibility for fostering a climate intolerant of sexual assault lies with our frontline leaders, our commanding officers. They, along with their executive officers and Senior Enlisted Advisors, have the responsibility of creating a professional command climate that will not tolerate, condone or ignore sexist language and behavior, hazing, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. They ensure every Sailor and every victim who reports sexual assault is treated with dignity, respect, and professionalism. In that vein, this is what we are now doing:

  • Designated a Flag Officer as the SAPR program leader for each installation/Fleet Concentration area reporting to the Fleet Commander.
  • Community outreach and engagement by every region command and base CO.
  • Monthly coordination meetings between the regional Flag Officer, NCIS, legal office and regional SARCs.
  • Changes made to Fitrep/Eval Instructions to stress evaluation of the individual on his or her character and contribution to command or organizational climate.
  • Dedicated SAPR officers (O-4 or above) at 16 Echelon II, TYCOM, and SYSCOM commands.
  • Command Climate Surveys are completed within 90 days of a CO assuming command and annually thereafter. The results are automatically delivered to the ISIC and debriefed by the unit CO to the ISIC and to his or her own command.
  • Special Victim Capability, close collaboration early and throughout the process among SARCs, VAs, NCIS investigators, prosecutors and Victims’ Legal Counsel (VLC) to improve victim support and advocacy, as well as the investigation and disciplinary options to hold perpetrators appropriately accountable.
  • Victims’ Legal Counsel program established to provide legal counsel and, as appropriate, advocacy for victims. Navy VLCs will help protect victims’ rights through the investigative and adjudicative stages of the military justice system. We expect the VLC Program will improve the rate of victims fully participating in the system from initial report, through investigation, to adjudication.
  • Improved sexual assault and complex-case training for all JAG prosecutors. Monthly publication of the results of all Navy courts-martial fleet-wide.

Again, we have key metrics by which we measure these efforts:

  • Number of cases investigated (this will match the number of unrestricted reports made).
  • Number of completed investigations that have command action taken.
  • Number of victims who convert from restricted to unrestricted reports after consulting with VLC.

Shipmates, plain and simple, this is serious business. Sexual assault has no place in our Navy! Each one of us has a role to play in preventing it. I provided lots of numbers and stats over the last five blogs. Hopefully the numbers, or at least their magnitude, will stick with you and demonstrate just how much our Navy is doing to eliminate sexual assault. Moving ahead, the only number that will matter is zero. Zero victims, zero events, zero perpetrators. I need your help, your shipmates need your help. Let’s go after this together!