Health & Safety

April 26, 2012

Officials explain new sexual assault policies

Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Senior Defense Department officials said they hope more service members who are victims of sexual assault report the crimes as a result of a policy change Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced last week.

Panetta issued guidance April 20 withholding “initial disposition authority” from any officer who is below the O-6 — colonel or Navy captain — level and who does not hold special court-martial convening authority. In other words, unit commanders at the company or squadron level no longer have authority to decide whether to take further action in reported cases of attempted rape, forcible sodomy or sexual assault.

In announcing the new policy, the secretary said the change will ensure that sexual assault cases receive high-level attention.

A senior defense official told reporters today during a background briefing that the new policy will allow more experienced and less partial officers to make the initial decision on whether a sexual assault case goes to trial. That will add consistency to how such cases are handled, the official added.

“The further ‘north’ you go [in rank] the more attention there is paid to this,” the official said. “They get a level of training that somebody at the O-3 level wouldn’t necessarily get.”

The defense official cited a hypothetical case in which an alleged attacker and victim belong to the same company-level unit of about 115 enlisted people and five officers working for the same Army captain or Navy lieutenant commander.

In the past, the official said, a victim in that unit might choose not to report an assault because the commander liked the alleged attacker more, or because the victim’s performance in the unit might cause the commander to disbelieve the victim’s report. Now, that unit commander must forward such reports up the chain of command to a colonel-level special court-martial convening authority.

A Joint Staff official told reporters, also on background, that the new policy is intended in part to remove decisions from the “immediate level of the crime.”

More senior officers will have “a more neutral ability to take a look at the facts … and make a reasoned decision,” the Joint Staff official said.

The change also means that officers making future disposition decisions typically will have legal and medical staff members who can assist in determining proper handling of the case, the defense official said. The new policy also applies to any associated charges related to an alleged assault, the official added.

“Any suggestion or appearance of retaliation would have to be resolved at the same [higher] level,” the official said.

The official noted there are several precedents for the withholding policy. A similar approach — placing authority for case disposition under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with more senior officers — typically applies in cases of officer misconduct, cases with national security interest or in alleged misconduct by civilians accompanying the force, the official said.

The official said Panetta has directed that other new policies also take effect:

- Establishing “Special Victim’s Unit” capabilities within each of the services, to ensure that specially trained investigators, prosecutors and victim-witness assistance personnel are available to assist with sexual assault cases;

- Requiring that sexual assault policies be explained to all service members within 14 days of their entrance on active duty;

- Allowing reserve and National Guard members who have been sexually assaulted while on active duty to remain in their active-duty status to obtain the treatment and support afforded to active-duty members;

- Requiring a record of the outcome of disciplinary and administrative proceedings related to sexual assault, and requiring that copies of those records be centrally retained;

- Requiring annual organizational climate assessments; and

- Mandating wider public dissemination of DOD resources, including the DOD Safe Helpline, a free, anonymous and confidential resource that can be reached worldwide, 24 hours a day, to connect victims with live sexual assault support professionals.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Becoming stronger through failure

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D.  — Failing the Air Force physical training test: my greatest fear since joining the military. It is embarrassing to admit recently that fear came to fruition, but what I have learned through that failure has become one of my greatest strengths. After failing, I definitely felt like a weak person for not...
 
 

Students wear red, white and blue to honor Month of the Military Child

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau) Students of Borman Elementary School gather together for a flag raising ceremony and wear red, white and blue clothing to honor the Month of the Military Child at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 10. During the ceremony, the children listened to guest speakers, recited the...
 
 

Case lot sale returns to D-M April 17-19

FORT LEE, Va. – Mention case lot sales and commissary patrons start lining up for the opportunity to save up to 50 percent or more on club-pack and full-case items. Known as the Commissary Customer Appreciation Case Lot Sale, the springtime version of this twice-yearly event will unfold at stateside stores, each hosting their individual...
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Jessica H. Smith and Airman Connor J. Marth)

More than meets the eye

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — The word abuse often conjures images of bruises, swollen lips and harsh markings, but abuse is more than meets the eye. It can be much more than physical suffering and can have last...
 
 
(Courtesy photo)

AFSOUTH working with Colombia to develop space program

American Airmen from the Space community traveled to multiple U.S. space operations locations with Colombian air force counterparts in February as part of a U.S. Southern Command subject matter expert exchange. According to Lt....
 
 

Local Briefs April 17, 2015

NARFE Chapter 55 to meet  April 13, 11 a.m. – Golden Corral The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association, Chapter 55, will hold their next monthly luncheon meeting on Monday April 13 at the Golden Corral, 4380 East 22nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85711. The luncheon starts at 11 a.m. and ends about 1:30...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin