The Defense Department could start tracking sexual assault cases among civilians and contractors downrange if the Pentagon follows the recommendation of an inspector general’s report due out early this year.

The DOD’s current database tracking sexual assaults only follows cases involving servicemembers; assaults involving only contract workers downrange are not included in DOD statistics.

This may soon change.

The Pentagon’s Inspector General is finishing a two-year evaluation of how the military responds to sexual assaults in combat areas.

“They actually looked at the issue of expanding our policy to contractors and civilians, especially in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Reporting office. “I have had a pre-brief from that report, and it appears that is going to be a recommendation.”

In advance of the final recommendations, the Army is launching a pilot program in Europe this year to include civilian employees in sexual assault reporting. The program, which will not include contract workers, is meant to function as a test project “so we can see what works with our policy and what doesn’t when it’s applied to civilians,” Whitley said.

The military’s definition of sexual assault has been expanded since a change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice went into effect two years ago.

Article 120, formerly known as “rape and carnal knowledge” is now titled “rape, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct” and includes less violent offenses categorized as “wrongful sexual contact,” according to Lt. Col. Jeff Simpson, the sexual harassment/assault response program manager in Iraq.

He said there are about two or three reported cases of sexual assault in Iraq per week. About one-quarter of the assaults in Iraq are committed by contract workers, Simpson said, including local national and third-country national (non-Iraqi, non-U.S.) employees.

Bases downrange have implemented practical measures to reduce incidents of assault such as the installation of more secure locks in living facilities and improved lighting. Also, individuals are told to use the buddy system, and not walk around alone, Simpson said.

What to do in case of a sexual assaultThe Department of Defense encourages all victims of sexual assault, regardless of their military or civilian status, to report offenses.

Although not currently counted for reporting purposes, the military offers contractors treatment and care if they are victims of sexual assault, according to Kaye Whitley, head of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office.

The following information is available at its Web site:

If you have been, or think you have been, sexually assaulted:

Go to a safe location away from the attacker.

Preserve all evidence of the assault. Do not bathe, wash your hands or brush your teeth. If you are still where the crime occurred, do not clean, straighten up or remove anything from the crime scene.

Contact a sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate locally or stateside.

For stateside, call 1-800-342- 9647

For overseas, call 00-800-3429-6477

For overseas collect, call 1-484-530-5908

— U.S. Department of Defense

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