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Sexual assault reports rise as Navy tries to reduce incidents

May. 17, 2013 - 11:03AM   |  
This poster was created as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, recognized in April across the service.
This poster was created as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, recognized in April across the service. (Navy)
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The number of reported sexual assaults continues to rise, as the Navy continues to ramp up efforts to reduce them — and the stigma associated with reporting them.

In 2012, the Navy recorded 773reported incidents, up 33 percent from 2011.

These findings appear in the Defense Department Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Review, released May 7. DoD tracks both “restricted” and “unrestricted” cases. Unrestricted cases are reported through the chain of command, while restricted reports are made confidentially — for example, to a chaplain. Restricted reports allow sailors to get help without reporting it through their chains of command or law enforcement.

There were 527 unrestricted reports and 246 restricted reports in 2012, up 29 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

Almost 50 cases were converted from restricted to unrestricted reports, up from 32 in fiscal 2011, which means law enforcement and chain of command personnel were able to pursue more alleged attackers.

Most victims of sexual assault are young sailors, between E-1 and E-5, the report said. The majority of offenders, 97 percent, were male and most were between E-1 and E-4 and under the age of 25. The Navy completed 527 investigations in fiscal 2012, which involved 556 victims since some reports had multiple accusers. Eighty percent of the unrestricted reports were cases of a sailor being assaulted by another sailor, or a “blue-on-blue” attack.

Combating the problem

Jill Vines Loftus, director of the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said recent efforts by leadership to reduce sexual assault incidents were not reflected in the 2012 statistics.

The DoD report spans the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2011, and ended Sept. 30, 2012.

The Navy launched its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Fleet and Leadership programs for enlisted sailors and officers in June, so these programs did not affect the numbers.

The training, which includes a 40-minute video and time for discussion, focuses on bystander intervention and was presented across the fleet between August and December.

Loftus said it could take one to three years to see the full effects of the SAPR programs.

The Navy has also begun a prevention pilot program for sailors in San Diego, modeled after one at Great Lakes, Ill., that began in January 2011 and reduced reported incidents of sexual assault by 63 percent over two years.

The San Diego pilot will be much different from Great Lakes, where participants were in “A” school and had more limited recreational opportunities in the surrounding town.

To help mitigate problems in San Diego, roving chiefs and junior officers have been dispatched to monitor barracks and on-base liberty facilities, such as bowling alleys and movie theaters. The patrols have already halted high-risk situations, such as underage drinking, and removed civilians from the barracks, Loftus said.

Great Lakes talked to local bars and hotels, asking employees to call if they notice suspicious behavior. San Diego is considering it and has reached out to local businesses.

The pilot will continue to roll out, next to sailors at U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, and Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

Other upcoming changes include:

Faster investigations. Special teams from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service will be in all fleet concentration areas by September. The teams are already in Norfolk, Va., and decreased investigation time from 300 days to 80.

Training for civilians. Mirroring the Navy’s SAPR-F and SAPR-L programs, the service is working to put a SAPR-C program in place for civilians, Loftus said. The 30-minute video will include what resources the Navy provides for civilians if they’ve been sexually assaulted and what civilians should do if a sailor comes to them to report a sexual assault.

Training for academy and ROTC students. The Navy also hopes to get a program similar to SAPR-F under contract this year for ROTC units and the Naval Academy, Loftus said.

A December report said that one in seven midshipmen had experienced unwanted sexual contact in the last year, prompting a visit in January from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert.

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