Sexual assault sentence sends a message
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Not in our Army.
That was the message five generals and two colonels sent earlier this week when, acting as a court-martial panel, they sentenced Army Reserve Col. Nikki S. McCarty to three years’ confinement on sexual harassment/sexual assault charges.
On Tuesday, McCarty was convicted of four counts related to forcibly kissing nine female subordinate soldiers while in the States and deployed to Kosovo.
While McCarty, 59, faced a maximum sentence of nearly 52 years, Army prosecutors recommended dismissal from the Army and a 4½-month sentence, equal to the span in late 2004 and early 2005 when McCarty committed the acts of which he was convicted.
McCarty’s harsher-than-expected sentence comes as U.S. Army Europe is waging a concerted and comprehensive campaign with the “Not in Our Army” slogan to show that it is serious about confronting sexual assault.
“I think the message we are trying to send is that people will be held accountable for their behavior,” said Rosalind Dennis, sexual assault prevention and response program manager for USAREUR.
The “Sexual Assault, Not in Our Army” campaign is one of the most visible in its heavy rotation of public announcements on American Forces Network. Also, USAREUR placed a link to the “Sexual Assault, Not in Our Army” Web site (www.per.hqusareur.army.mil/sexualassault) on its home page in August 2004.
Sexual assault has been the second most reported felony in USAREUR. Not only is sexual assault destructive to the victim and negatively impacts unit readiness, it goes against the Army values of leadership, respect and loyalty, Dennis said.
In March 2004, USAREUR formed a task force to examine its training, policy, program and procedures in regard to sexual assault. Just a month earlier, the Department of the Army established a similar task force.
From its task force, USAREUR began holding review meetings from late 2004 to late 2005 with generals and key leaders. In February 2005, a decision was made in conjunction with the task force that USAREUR would undertake a “full-fledged sexual assault campaign,” Dennis said. In April 2005, USAREUR released a memo outlining its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
“Commanders at all levels are responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment for those in their charge, and must take action to prevent sexual assault, protect and support victims, and hold offenders accountable by taking all appropriate administrative and judicial actions based on the facts and circumstances of each case,” according to the memo.
The two colonels, four brigadier generals and one major general on the court-martial panel deliberated for about 40 minutes Tuesday in reaching its verdict against McCarty and spent roughly 30 minutes in deliberating his sentence. The short deliberation times stunned court observers.
Many of McCarty’s victims said Tuesday with the conviction and three-year sentence the military sent a strong message that “Not in Our Army” is more than just a slogan, said Maj. Allen Hing, 21st Theater Support Command public affairs officer who spoke with the victims after the sentencing.
“The board members were very clear that the actions taken were unacceptable. The term ‘Not in Our Army’ was held loud and true,” said Hing, who was conveying the opinions expressed to him by the victims.
Hing said the victims wanted to let others know that they should have the courage to come forward because they do not know whom they might be helping later and to maintain courage once they come forward because of the lengthy process.
April is sexual assault awareness month for U.S. Army in Europe.
It will be the first time that USAREUR has dedicated an entire month to promoting and emphasizing sexual assault awareness, said Rosalind Dennis, USAREUR’s sexual assault prevention and response program manager.
Throughout the month, several events will take place at Army installations across Europe, including an information fair in the Wiesbaden, Germany, gym, a skit regarding sexual assault in the Benelux region and a “Jeopardy!”-like game show in Heidelberg, Germany.
For specific times and dates for events, check local bulletins and information sources, Dennis said.
— Steve Mraz