The Army unveiled a new campaign and strategy involving education, investigation and prosecution to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks.
Echoing his address at the opening ceremony at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, Army Secretary Pete Geren said the 1,800 convictions for sexual assault since 9/11 are “a crime against core values” and “a crime that destroys unit cohesion.”
He added in a Jan. 26 meeting with reporters: “There are no bystanders” in preventing sexual harassment and assault and soldiers have a “primary goal and the moral duty to take care of his or her battle buddy.
Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, Army G-1, said prevention “starts with the conviction” that these crimes are “against core Army values.”
Adding, “A critical element of the strategy is … to eliminate attitudes and perceptions” that foster harassment among all those entering the Army.
“Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the world,” Rochelle noted.
He also said as the campaign and strategy takes off, he expects an increase in reports as more soldiers put their trust in the system. “We view this as a positive trend.”
Carolyn Collins, who works of sexual harassment and assault issues for the G-1, said, “We saw a sharp increase in reporting” in 2004 when the Army began emphasizing prosecuting these cases and launched pilot programs in prevention at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Lewis, Wash.
He said the Army will be spending $44 million on the campaign and strategy. This does not include funds being spent in these areas by the Installation Management Command.
Among the initiatives is the “I.[intervene] A.[act] M.[motivate], Strong Command program that includes training and workshops.
Other parts of the campaign involve interactive web sessions for soldiers and a commander’s resource Web site.
Lt. Gen. Scott Black, the judge advocate general, said 15 Army lawyers are being trained as experts in sexual assault cases and they will be assigned to the Army’s largest installation as prosecutors.
In addition, these lawyers will be expected to train other Army prosecutors and defense attorneys in handling sexual assault cases.
“These really are historic steps.”
Adding, “These are nuanced cases, usually one on one” and can prove “very, very difficult to try.”
On the investigative side, Brig. Gen. Rod Johnson, provost marshal, said his office is hiring seven “highly qualified individuals” to “glean insight and their fresh perspective.” for the agents.
One will be working at the U.S. Army Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., two will be assigned to the laboratory at Fort Gillem, Ga., and three will be assigned regionally. He hopes to hire up to 30 more experts in the future.
Anne Munch, one of the first seven hired and a lawyer, said, “The bulk of the cases are non-stranger assault cases that pose the most difficult dynamics.”
In addition, many perpetrators have a history of sexual assault that may not appear in police records.
The challenge “is how do we tie, the investigators, the prosecutors and victims’ advocates together” to “improve not only reporting, but holding perpetrators accountable.”
All are expected to be in place by mid-February. Field training on the campaign and strategy for agents will begin in March, first in Europe.
“Of the 9,000 criminal investigations [in 2008], 15 percent were sexual assault-related,” he said. “We investigate all reports of sexual assault.”
About 140 sexual assault cases went to trial. Many lesser cases – inappropriate comments –were handled administratively.
“We know where we want to take [officers, warrants, soldiers, recruits and members of ROTC]. There are metrics” for each part of the campaign and strategy.
Rochelle said the training will also involve Army senior leaders. The Army “wants them to have passion in this area.”
“We want to be a model for the country,” Geren said.