MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Mirroring a trend across the military, the number of alleged sexual assaults under investigation at Misawa is on the increase, according to Air Force lawyers.

In 2006, no indecent-assault cases were heard in military court at Misawa, said Capt. Kathryn Miller, 35th Fighter Wing chief of military justice and assistant staff judge advocate. In the military, indecent assault is the same as sexual assault, she noted.

“So far this year, we have completed two cases involving sexual misconduct,” Miller wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “While not all indecent assault cases will go to trial, we currently have six cases that are either docketed or will likely proceed to an Article 32 pretrial hearing.”

A Pentagon study published March 15 found that reports of sexual assault in the military increased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2006.

In 2006, nearly 3,000 sexual assault reports were filed, compared with 2,400 the previous year, according to the report.

Pentagon officials attribute the rise to a concerted effort to encourage victims to report the crime and improved victim services.

Last year was the first full year of restricted reporting data collection. Restricted reporting allows victims to receive medical care, counseling and other support without triggering an investigation. However, victims can choose to pursue an investigation at a later time.

Military lawyers at Misawa don’t tie the increase in cases there to restricted reporting. They tie it to alcohol.

“Many of the cases could have been prevented by responsible drinking — either from the victim, the perpetrator, or both,” Miller stated.

The most recent sexual-misconduct case to be tried in Misawa court involved booze.

On Tuesday, Airman 1st Class Derelle Mullen, 21, of the 35th Maintenance Squadron was convicted of indecent assault. Lt. Col. Eric Dillow, a judge for the Pacific trial circuit court, sentenced Mullen to four months confinement and reduction in rank to E-1.

Mullen was accused of sexually fondling an adult female dependent without her consent after both had been drinking and fell asleep for about an hour on a bed at a friend’s off-base house, said Capt. Michael Brusca, lead trial counsel for the government in the case.

The victim’s husband was asleep in a recliner in the next room, Brusca said.

Mullen claimed he believed he had consent, Brusca said.

Most sexual assaults investigated this year have involved enlisted personnel and dependents, Miller said. The victim usually is the reporting party.

The spike in indecent assaults at Misawa comes amid a dry spell of driving-under-the-influence cases. The 35th Fighter Wing hasn’t had a DUI for about 120 days, or since late January, according to base officials.

Miller said her office is trying to get the word out “that this is a problem and it can be prevented if everyone plans ahead, looks out for each other and drinks responsibly.”

“Our female airmen need to exercise caution and care. Our male airmen need to exercise restraint — especially when the female is drunk. One night of drinking could change both of their lives forever,” she said.

If convicted, the accused may face sex-offender registration, Miller said.

“These cases are difficult for everyone involved,” she said.

What is sexual assault?Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not, or cannot consent, according to military officials. It includes rape, indecent assault, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling, nonconsensual sodomy or attempts to commit these acts.

According to Capt. Kathryn Miller, 35th Fighter Wing chief of justice and assistant staff judge advocate, indecent assault falls under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and has the following elements:

The accused assaulted someone other than his or her spouse. The acts were intended to gratify one’s lust or sexual desires. The conduct of the accused adversely impacted the armed forces’ good order and discipline or brought discredit upon the service.Options of reporting assaults

For active-duty, Guard and Reserve members, there are two options for reporting sexual assault: restricted reporting and unrestricted reporting.

Restricted reporting, introduced in June 2005, enables victims to receive services from sexual-assault program staff, health care providers and chaplains. Commanders and military criminal investigators are not notified and no investigation is conducted. Victims who opt for confidential reporting, however, can later pursue a criminal investigation, up to one year from the initial reporting.

Unrestricted reporting includes health care, counseling, command notification and an official investigation.

Victims preferring confidential reporting should contact their base sexual assault response coordinator.

Adult dependents and Defense Department employees can file only an unrestricted report, according to Misawa Air Base officials.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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