Task Force Seeking Input of Military Sexual Assault Victims

March 5, 2009

Sexual Assault is a horrible crime that leaves many victims in its wake. Sexual assault is a increasing problem throughout American society and the world. Victims are often reluctant to come forward to report the assault for varying reasons. They feel that no one will believe them, they don’t want to go through the emotional trauma of reliving the assault by being interviewed by law enforcement and having to testify in court, or perhaps they feel that the assault will somehow be blamed on them instead. That’s why sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes in America today. The US Army Sexual Assault Response and Prevention program was put into place to make it easier and more comfortable for a sexual assault victim to report the crime and receive services and treatment that they deserve. By allowing the victim to choose between restricted and unrestricted reporting, the Army makes it possible for the victim to have some control over the outcome of their case. Because of this policy, more victims are coming forward to receive medical treatment and counseling services, even if they don’t chose to report the assault to the police. This reporting option allows the victim to regain the one thing that the perpetrator has taken away from them ….. their own free choice. While no system is entirely perfect, I do feel that by allowing the victims to have the choice, has encouraged more sexual assault victims to come forward and receive help.

As I’ve written before, the US Army and the military, have a goal to eradicate sexual assault from amongst its ranks. While that’s a lofty goal and one that most likely isn’t obtainable, it’s encouraging to see that the Army is attacking the problem of sexual assault from many different angles. Installation Victim Advocates and Unit Victim Advocates are in place to assist victims in navigating the system, obtaining the counseling and resources they need and advocating for the victim throughout the entire process, from the reporting of the crime to the culmination in court proceedings. New educational campaigns have been launched in the effort to educate and empower Soldiers in spotting potential problems and taking actions to prevent a sexual assault from occurring. Interactive training, like the Sex Signals tour, are happening across the Army in an effort to educate Soldiers in what constitutes a sexual assault, especially in those “gray areas” that sometimes occur in dating scenarios. Now the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military is reaching out to victims of sexual assault and asking for their input. Not only are they wishing to speak with Soldiers who have been sexually assaulted, but to civilians who have been sexually assaulted by a servicemember as well.
The idea behind the new initiative is to gain a better understanding about the experience a sexual assault victim has had, with the military’s response to the incident. Did they receive the services they needed? Did they receive services in a timely manner? Were the services in place, on the installation or did they have to go off the installation to receive services? Was command response appropriate, if they chose unrestricted reporting? Because victims of this horrific crime often feel more comfortable talking confidentiality, names of individuals or their installation will not be released in the Task Force’s final report to Congress.

“We need to maintain their privacy and their confidentiality in order for them to have enough confidence in us to come talk to us,” said Jenny Hobert, Task force Spokeswoman. “It’s their choice. It’s their option. They are in control and they decide how they want to do this.”1

During the interviews, three specific areas will be focused on. Those areas are:
1. Prevention of sexual assault: One of the best ways to eradicate sexual assault is to train people and make them aware of what sexual assault is and what actions they can take to stop sexual assault.
2. Response to reports of sexual assault: What resources are in place to assist victims? Are there counseling, medical, legal and spiritual components in place for the victim and how exactly does the response to a report of sexual assault take place?
3. Offender accountability: The task for is also wanting information on whether the victim feels that the judicial process is working. That starts from the investigation of the assault through a courts-martial or trail in a civilian court. How did command respond to the incident if the perpetrator is a Soldier? 2

The military has the opportunity to make a huge impact on how sexual assaults are handled, and thus how victims of sexual assault are able to access the services that they need. The opportunity is ripe for the military to take the lead in this country on how a sexual assault is handled from beginning to end, how victims are taken care of and advocated for, how the perpetrators are dealt with and ensure that the resources available to military victims of sexual assault are they best possible.

“They’ve led the nation, they’ve led our culture, in changing the way people deal with each other,” Hobert said. “I think this is another opportunity for the Department of Defense to take care of one of this nation’s greatest assets, and that’s our military personnel.”3

Once the assessment is completed and compiled by the end of June, the report of the task force will then be presented to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He’ll evaluate the report and make his comments. The report will then go to the House and Senate armed services committees.

If you are a victim of military sexual assault and wish to take part in this important study, there are several means for you to do so. You can call the toll free number set up for this purpose, 888-325-6640 or you can email . By either method, someone will contact you from the task force and schedule a time for an interview.

I’m impressed and encouraged that the Department of Defense is taking this problem seriously and are willing to allow the victims of this horrible crime, to have a voice. By doing so, I feel that better policies can be put into place to take care of sexual assault victims and ensure that they receive the services they are entitled to, but ultimately to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, so that they can’t victimize another person.

  1. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53311 []
  2. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53311 []
  3. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53311 []


One Response to “Task Force Seeking Input of Military Sexual Assault Victims”

  1. Anna Meek on March 5th, 2009 8:35 pm

    I had a friend that was a state trooper and killed in the line of duty. At the funeral there were helicopters in the air overhead and I really felt violated. However I feel it might make people more aware of our troops efforts if they can actually see the coffins of our fallen soldiers comming home. The country has watched all the bombing and war efforts in the media and even heard the number of soldiers that have died for our country. This might really humanize it and have an impact if they show what exactly our country has lost. But lets keep the media away from the funerals. Let them say good-bye in peace and have some privacy.

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