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Military sexual assault numbers tough to pin down in Kitsap

A string of high profile sexual assault cases in the last few weeks involving members of the military has drawn sharp criticism from President Obama, the Secretary of Defense and members of Congress.

“Not only is it shameful and disgraceful but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be,” the president said last week.

But efforts to determine the number of sexual assaults involving Sailors and Marines at Naval Base Kitsap have so far not been very successful.

The Navy was unwilling to provide firm numbers and Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge and members of his office also had no solid data.

Hauge said that his office deals with Sailors for all types of crimes and prosecutes them any time they are made aware of a law violation. But, Hauge’s office doesn’t keep track of cases involving Sailors versus civilians and can be kept in the dark when sexual assaults involving Sailors and Marines occur on base.

“I can give you anecdotal information, but in terms of reliable hard numbers, we haven’t been very successful,” Hauge said. “When someone is arrested, they’re generally pretty reluctant to reveal who their employer is if their employer is the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.”

Eventually, during the trial process, prosecutors are able to ascertain that a Sailor or Marine is a defendant. But, Cammy Lewis, a deputy prosecutor who heads Kitsap County’s special assault unit, couldn’t recall a single case in recent years involving a case of sexual assault involving two members of the military.

“When it is two sailors, I guess the Navy handles it and doesn’t refer it and gives the victim the choice of how it is handled,” Lewis said, noting that jurisdictional issues sometimes make it impossible for her office to know what the Navy is doing about sexual assaults.

Liane Nakahara, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Northwest, was also unable to provide much insight about sexual assaults involving members of the military in Kitsap County.

“We are not able to provide specific numbers for the amount of sexual assaults that were reported at Naval Base Kitsap in 2012,” Nakahara said. “The only official numbers for such cases in the military that we can share are published in the United States Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’s (DoD SAPRO) Annual Report to Congress.”

According to the report referenced by Nakahara, “There were 527 unrestricted reports and 248 restricted reports of sexual assault in the Navy during FY12. This reflects a 29 percent and 43 percent increase in the number of unrestricted and restricted reports made in FY11, respectively.  The number of reports converting from restricted to unrestricted more than doubled in FY12 (74) from FY11 (32).”

According to the Department of Defense, “restricted reporting” is a reporting option that allows sexual assault victims to confidentially disclose the assault to specified individuals (i.e., Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate, or healthcare personnel), and receive medical treatment, including emergency care, counseling, and assignment of a sexual assault advocate, without triggering an investigation. The victim’s report is not reported to law enforcement or to the command to initiate the official investigative process until the victim consents or an established exception applies. The Restricted Reporting Program applies to Service members and their military dependents 18 years of age and older. Through Unrestricted Reporting, the victim receives the above available care, and the report is provided to the command and law enforcement and may be used to initiate the official investigative process.

Nakahara said that in 2012, the Naval Base Kitsap Sexual Assault Response Coordinator offered 120 educational sessions reaching 7,163 individuals and engaged in 247 collaborative outreach contacts to improve program support and community response to victims of sexual assault.

In addition, every command training team initiated leadership training to reach every Sailor with important bystander intervention techniques.

 

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