Department of Defense Releases Sexual Assault Report, Two New Policies Announced
The Department of Defense (DoD) released today key findings from the Academic Program Year (APY) 2010-2011 “Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies.” The report also contains the results from the “2011 Service Academy Gender Relations Focus Groups.”
“One sexual assault is one too many,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“Whether it’s in our academies or our ranks, at sea or ashore, there’s no place for this unacceptable behavior. We treat each other with dignity in this institution. I expect everyone in this department to live up to that high standard. This is a leadership issue, first and foremost, so I also expect us to lead with integrity and with energy to eliminate sexual assault and harassment from our culture. I’m confident the steps we are taking are the right ones, but we must continue to improve.”
One of the department’s strategic priorities is to address the increase in the number of reports made to authorities to ensure victims obtain needed support and services.
Supporting victims is also the focus of two new DoD policies. Under a new policy on expedited transfers, service members who have been the victim of sexual assault and have filed an Unrestricted Report now have the option to request an expedited transfer from their unit and/or installation. The service member must receive a response to the transfer request from the unit commander within 72 hours, and can request a review of any denied request by a General/Flag Officer (or SES equivalent) in the chain of command and receive that response within the next 72 hours.
The second new policy standardizes the retention periods for sexual assault records across the military services. In unrestricted cases, specified documents will be retained for 50 years and in restricted cases, for five years, to ensure victims have extended access to documents related to the sexual assault.
The academies saw an overall increase in the number of sexual assault reports made to authorities in APY 2010-2011. During the evaluation period, a total of 65 reports of sexual assault involved cadets and midshipmen compared to a total of 41 reports in the prior APY.
“We know that the military academies are similar to college campuses around the country in that sexual harassment and assault are challenges that all faculty, staff and students need to work to prevent,” said Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “However, when it does occur, we owe it to those who have been victimized, and to every cadet and midshipman, to do everything possible to provide needed support and to hold those who commit sexual assault appropriately accountable.”
As part of the comprehensive review, DoD officials conducted site visits at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy, reviewed academy policies, trainings, and procedures, and held focus groups with cadets and midshipmen.
Based on information obtained during these site visits, DoD officials found that most academy programs fulfilled, and in some cases, surpassed the requirements of existing DoD policies and directives. For example, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point established the superintendent as the chair of the Sexual Assault Review Board to ensure the highest-level awareness of the academy’s cases. The U.S. Naval Academy created a model therapist-led support group. The U.S. Air Force Academy developed an eSARC program to increase reports and improve its 24/7 response capability.
“We also identified areas for improvement to enhance programs and ensure compliance with the department’s policies,” said Hertog. “In our oversight role, my office will follow up with the academies every six months to ensure the necessary improvements are implemented in a timely manner.”
One of the required improvements is for each academy to establish evaluative processes and metrics to assess their sexual harassment and assault prevention program initiatives. Additionally, the academies should continue to collaborate and share best practices to improve their programs.
The complete report is available at http://www.sapr.mil. For academy specific information, contact the individual military services at 703-697-2564 for Army, 703-697-5342 for Navy, and 703-695-0640 for Air Force.
(To read full press release, visit this U.S. Department of Defense link)