The Navy commander in charge of preventing sexual assaults made an apparent response Monday to Associated Press findings published days earlier that servicemembers in Japan often receive light punishment for their sex crimes.
“The article might lead sailors to think that commanders—particularly those in Japan—do not take their responsibility to make accountability decisions in sexual assault cases seriously,” wrote Rear Adm. Sean Buck. “This is simply not true.”
Buck said the responsibility for sexual assault prevention does rest primarily with commanding officers and that they are actively working to establish trust with servicemembers who need to come forward and report a crime.
The admiral said many of the statistics used in the news research were cited without context or background, and that multiple different offenses fall under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The AP story cites over 1,000 summaries of sex crimes and more than 600 documents from the NCIS.
Among the findings: The Navy’s use of nonjudicial punishment is on the rise; most Marines and sailors accused of sex offenses don’t receive prison time; and most serious sex-crime allegations involve a victim also in the military.
The AP analysis found the handling of allegations verged on the chaotic, with seemingly strong cases often reduced to lesser charges. In two rape cases, commanders overruled recommendations to court-martial and dropped the charges instead.
Buck specifically mentioned that NCIS agents and commanders do not work alone when investigating sexual assaults.
“The truth is, only relatively recently did we begin to understand the magnitude of the challenge,” wrote Buck. “As soon as we learn, we act – and not just piece by piece, but along the entire continuum of care.”