Army confronts problem of sexual assault

By Paula Akana
Published On: Jun 06 2013 01:08:44 PM HST

The big talk on Capitol Hill has been how to bring an end to sexual assaults in the military.

HONOLULU -

A panel of three shared with the media what the U.S. Army is doing here in Hawaii to fight the growing problem of sexual assaults in the military.

The Army is the sole branch of service that includes sexual harassment as part of sexual assault.

"The Army has made the determination that the conditions in which sexual harassments occur have the tendency to progress into sexual assaults," said Lt. Col. Brenden Burke.  "So we want to stop the issues as they're starting."

In Fiscal Year 2012, the U.S. Army in Hawaii reported 35 cases.  As of March 31 in this current fiscal year, there have been 23 reported cases in Hawaii.

Top brass say most cases were for sexual assault.  The Army's rate of reported cases was 2.2 per 1,000.  The U.S. Army Pacific Command's rate was 4.8 per 1,000.

"We have seen that uptick in responses or reports of sexual assault, but in a way that's kind of good for us right now because what that's telling us is we're setting the environment for people to feel comfortable to come forward," said Lt. Col. Ed Austin.

The Army has sexual assault response coordinators and victims advocates at each brigade, as well as victim advocates at the battalion level.  Victims are able to decide if they want a restrictive or unrestrictive report.

Unrestrictive means the chain of command and Criminal Investigation Division gets involved.  Restrictive means they just want help to heal themselves, mentally and physically.  The advocate or response coordinator cannot be compelled to tell who is involved.

"We try to encourage them and let them know that, hey, if you do get them involved and we can get CID in there.  Maybe gets some of these people who are doing it.  That might help," said Lt. Col. Austin.  "But, we leave the choice in their hands and that gives some power back to them."

"It gives them an option.  I think that's the key point," said Master Sgt. Sylvia Thomas.  "Once they start seeing the options that are available to them they start building upon themselves."

This month, commanders and supervisors will conduct a workplace inspection to look for any inappropriate material that might be out in the open or displayed.  They say that would include calendars featuring bikini-clad models.

Commanders will also re-validate all response coordinators and advocates to make sure they are right for the job.

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