DOD database would track Army sexual assault reports
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is planning a centralized database for information on alleged sexual assault victims and assailants, according to the Defense Department.
The database will have information including alleged victims’ and assailants’ names, social security numbers, police reports and medical records on treatment, according to the Federal Register, a daily publication in which the government publishes rules and proposed rules.
The records will be available to authorized personnel only, the Register says.
Dr. Kaye Whitley, of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, wrote via e-mail that the database would serve a valuable purpose.
“The Army is developing a tool to help them manage the sexual assault prevention and response program,” Whitley wrote. “It is designed to help them detect trends, apply resources, and to ensure victims are getting the needed care and support.”
The database is part of the Army’s effort to eliminate sexual assaults in the service, wrote Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty via e-mail.
But advocacy groups claim the Army’s proposed database goes too far by recording personal information, including name, rank and serial numbers, of alleged rape victims.
“We understand this is a sensitive topic and we hear the concerns of advocates,” Hilferty wrote. “However, the inclusion of some identifying information is necessary to ensure accurate data correlation and integrity. Without accurate data we cannot determine if program components such as victim advocacy, medical, investigative and legal services and activities are working.”
The Army would take “great care” to ensure the privacy of both alleged victims and assailants, Hilferty wrote.
“Fewer than 10 individuals in the entire Army could have access to the personal identifying information,” he wrote. “All other users would only be able to access aggregated, report-based, nonpersonal identifying information.”
But the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for military-related victims of violence, is concerned about who can access that information, said spokeswoman Anita Sanchez.
Another worry is that the database will have a chilling effect on reporting rapes, Sanchez said.
“A victim, for example, may think two, three, four times before they went forward to report that to military authorities, realizing that to report being sexual assaulted would result in very private and personal information being collected about them,” she said.
On Monday, advocacy group StopFamilyViolence.org members sent 100 e-mails an hour to the Defense Department protesting the proposed database, said Irene Weiser, director of the StopFamilyViolence.org.
Weiser said the personal information the Army wants to collect is beyond the scope of what the database is intended to do: Track sexual assaults and look for trends.
“Why do they need to know who it was if they want to know how many times rape occurred in the Army this year?” she said.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies report sexual assaults in terms of anonymous statistics, Weiser said.
She said victims would not report attacks against them if they know their names will be entered in a database along with their medical records and other private information for perpetuity.
“They should have the privacy that every other human being is entitled to that,” she said. “What happens between them and their doctor stays between them and their doctor.
“What happens between them and their therapist stays between them and their therapist.”
The Army is soliciting comment on the proposed database until Friday and will not have any official response to individual comments until all input has been received, Hilferty wrote.