CNO’s Sexual Assault Initiatives Lack Focus On Prevention

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich

On Jan. 14, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced a new five-point initiative to combat sexual assault.

The plan is meant to lower the obstacles to reporting, provide added support to survivors, and prevent re-victimization.

"Eliminating sexual assault requires more than words, zero-tolerance requires an all-hands effort," Richardson said.

However, the points have a heavier focus on victims post-assault, rather than providing preventive measures.

Much of the language used in the plan includes phrases like “following a sexual assault experience,” “reporting a sexual assault or seeking advice and counsel,” or “if you see something wrong, do something right” — all of which imply that the Navy, through these initiatives, will be better equipped to deal with survivors after the fact.

“It’s a bumper sticker,” said Col. Don Christensen, former Air Force chief prosecutor, who currently serves as the president of the advocacy group, Protect Our Defenders. “Almost everything they’re talking about is what happens after sexual assault.”

“All of what this tells me is that they’re not taking this seriously,” he added.

Navy Times reported that through this initiative, Navy sexual assault survivors could soon be able to request rapid relocation or even expedited discharges to help them reset their lives after the traumatic incident.

For victims who want to change commands to avoid their alleged abuser, Richardson said he planned to work with detailers to ensure that they can never be stationed with that person again.

In an email with Task & Purpose, a Chief of Naval Personnel spokesperson said in order to move forward with the transfer or separation request, a commanding officer will "determine if the report is credible — reasonable grounds to believe an offense constituting sexual assault occurred — based on all available evidence and the advice of the supporting legal advisor or counsel. A presumption shall be established in favor of transferring a service member once a determination has been made that the report is credible."

Additionally, the commanding officer can use a number of other factors to determine whether or not a transfer is a viable option — including operational necessity, status of the investigation, and nature of the offence.

Still Christensen said, “There’s not a single word in here about holding the attacker accountable.”

One point also included information about reducing binge drinking as a means to prevent sexual assault. However, it does not specify whether the alcohol issue is putting onus on the perpetrator or the victim.

“I’ve had lots and lots of sexual assault cases … sometimes the victim was intoxicated, most of the times they’re not,” Christensen said.

Richardson said that sexual assault has no place in the military, adding, "I want to continue to confront this scourge in our workforce. Until we go to zero we can never be satisfied."

A 2014 RAND Military Workplace study estimated that 20,000 of the military’s 1.3 million active-duty service members were the victims of at least one sexual assault in the past year, comprising 4.9% of women and 1% of men.

Christensen said the fact that the CNO believes zero is even a possibility shows that the Navy doesn’t take the issue seriously.

“No matter what you do, you will never eliminate sexual assault,” he said.

UPDATE: This article was updated to incorporate a statement provided to Task & Purpose by a Chief of Naval Personnel spokesperson. (1/22/2016; 12:11 pm)

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less