Navy adds confidential sexual harassment reporting with access to help
Stars and Stripes February 12, 2024
A new sexual harassment reporting option for Navy sailors allows them to keep their identity confidential but still receive counseling and other support, according to the service.
The confidential reporting also doesn’t trigger an investigation or disciplinary action, according to a Navy administrative order released Wednesday.
A sailor’s commanding officer must be notified within 24 hours after the complaint is received, but the service member’s identity and any personal identifying information are withheld, according to the order from Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman Jr., chief of naval personnel.
Confidential sexual harassment reports can be made only to a command climate specialist or a command-managed equal opportunity program manager. Affected sailors qualify for victim advocacy, safety assessments and other services, the Navy said.
The victim’s identity would be revealed only if the person who takes the complaint is called to testify in a court-martial or administrative hearing related to the sexual harassment claim.
It also would not be protected if an assessment reveals a high risk to the health and safety of the involved sailor or another person, according to the order.
Previously, sailors could make only formal, informal and anonymous complaints when alleging sexual harassment, with the process for each varying.
For example, the identity of sailors who make formal or informal complaints is not protected. Formal complaints must be investigated, whereas informal complaints are not investigated and are resolved at the lowest appropriate level, according to the Navy.
Sailors who make a confidential sexual harassment report can later change to a formal or informal complaint, but their identity wouldn’t be protected, the order states.
They also can change to an anonymous report but are prohibited from identifying themselves. In those cases, commanders determine whether there is enough information in the anonymous report to investigate, according to the Navy.
Anyone with questions about the policy can call the Navy’s advice hotline at 800-253-0931 or email email@example.com.
Wednesday’s order follows other Navy changes this year designed to make sexual assault reporting easier and keep victims who are seeking care from falling through the cracks.
Those changes include broadening some rules related to sexual assault reporting and victim requests for transfers. For example, commanding officers who have received a request from a sexual assault victim for an expedited transfer to another unit or base now have five days, up from three days, to consider the request.
That change was made in July.