Yokosuka spreading word about DOD-wide sex assault policy
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — It’s a wallet-sized card handed to someone believed to have been sexually assaulted.
It says: “You have the right to make a restricted or unrestricted report of the incident. Disclosure of any information to me or anyone else may result in the forfeiture of your right to choose between the two.”
Telling what happened — unless the person being told is in the “protected circle” of sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), health care worker, victim’s advocate or chaplain — can take the option of making a “restricted” report off the table, said SARC James Mandley.
Unrestricted reports trigger an investigation into the crime. A restricted report is kept within the protected circle while the victim decides if she or he wants to pursue an investigation. Victims sign a preference statement and can access health and medical treatment for their recovery. If nothing happens in a year, the evidence is destroyed or returned to the victim.
The change in reporting policy is another piece of the military’s “zero-tolerance” stance on sexual assault, which kicked into high gear in 2001, Mandley said. Handing out the cards is one way to get the word out on the Department of Defense’s victim’s choice reporting policy, which changed last spring to allow servicemembers to make restricted reports.
“The military has always had the unrestricted reporting, but now we can give victims more control over what they want to do,” Mandley said. “We would like to see the perpetrator brought to justice, but the victim has a choice.”
The policy is DOD-wide, but each installation is implementing it in different ways.
“Here, we’re talking about it on a daily basis,” Mandley said of Yokosuka Naval Base. “And we’re confident word is getting out.”
So far, only one “restricted report” has been filed in Mandley’s oversight area of Japan, Singapore and South Korea. But many people ask about it, he said.
“People ask, ‘Where was this system when it happened to me?’ ” Mandley said.
But no matter what provisions are made, the number of assaults is always higher than the number of reports, Mandley said.
“What few people who do come forward is not indicative of the number of sexual assaults we have,” he said.
At Yokosuka Naval Base, for example, the number of reported cases in any given year is usually between one and 10, Mandley said.
There was one reported case in 2001 and seven cases each in 2002, 2003 and 2005. There were 19 in 2004 due to “two groups of incidents that increased the numbers.” So far in 2006, there have been two reported cases.
“We continue to aggressively educate people in Yokosuka about sexual assault reporting and prevention, and the word is out about this important issue,” said base spokesman Bill Doughty. “There is absolutely no tolerance, absolutely no excuse for sexual assault.”
In the end, the idea is to have more prevention and fewer reports, Mandley said.
“I think it’s getting better,” Mandley said. “We just need to keep the information out there.”