USAToday has an editorial from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, The Honorable Clifford Stanley, on DoD’s efforts to combat sexual assault in the ranks.  The lawsuit filed against DoD and recent VWAP flap both seem to be under-currents in the editorial.

14 Responses to “USDPR, “We Clearly Need to Do More” About Sexual Assault in the Military”

  1. Bart Slabbekorn says:

    Once a friend of mine, an experienced TC, was prosecuting a difficult rape case. During his preparations, he discovered the accused had once been accused by his step daughter of sexual abuse. There were lots of foggy details about the allegation and my friend determined he needed to fly to her home and interview the child/family/CPS/etc. with an eye to presenting this evidence under M.R.E. 413. My friend was not allowed to explore this evidence because he was told the G wouldn’t pay for him to go anywhere to interview her or to explore the matter further. Leadership can say all they want about making sexual assault prosecutions a priority and inventing new tracking systems and crack prosecuting teams and all that nice stuff. But when everyday prosecutors have their hands tied by resource constraints then, as we say where I’m from, that dog won’t hunt.

  2. Stewie says:

    Well, you tried doing more, and it resulted in lower conviction rates even as the number of courts-martial increase, so…

    Can someone point me to where there is actual evidence that we don’t do sexual assault crimes at least as well as anyone else? Seems like the consensus is we take cases to court no one else would.

    Is there any definitive evidence that military members commit these crimes to any greater degree than any other similar civilian cohort?

    Perhaps we should start at the “is their a problem and what is it” stage instead of moving straight to the “there’s a problem and so we have to fix it” stage.

  3. k fischer says:

    “As a result of our efforts, more victims have stepped forward, and there has been an increase in the number of courts-martial of alleged sexual violators.”

    “We will continue to hold our leaders accountable for…ensuring that offenders are held accountable.”

    Does this sound the DoD is coming dangerously close to committing UCI?

    Does anyone have any written guidance to SJA’s or MACOM commanders from the DoD that they are required to “hold offenders accountable” by increasing court martial rates?

  4. A says:

    Well considering the fact that most of the sexual assault cases I prosecute were nolle prossed by the locals and I still happen to win a few, I think we’re doing pretty okay.

    K Fischer: I’m totally going to get UCI motions based on this editorial…

  5. John Harwood says:

    My mother taught me “If you can’t say anything nice, then ….”

    I have nothing nice to say about how the DoD is handling sex assault cases these days, so I’ll abstain.

  6. Some Army Guy says:

    @JH. Would your complaints be the same as in this editorial? Or would they be almost the opposite?

  7. John Harwood says:

    It seems to me from my humble corner of the world, @SAG, that the DoD’s sexual assault program was intended to placate critics rather than to actually compassionately counsel victims and appropriately vet cases for criminal prosecution. “Prosecute ’em all and let the jury sort ’em out” isn’t a military justice strategy; it’s a CYA strategy.

  8. k fischer says:

    JH,

    I agree 100%. When I first read the TJAG of the Army’s memo regarding the SVP program, the naive idealist in me thought that a seasoned prosecutor would be able to distinguish the legitimate cases from the bs cases, and perhaps we would have a decrease in courts martial, or they would stay the same, resulting in quality prosecutions.

    My experience is that the program has resulted in CID and SVP’s acting in a Nifongesque manner, turning a blind eye towards mountains of exculpatory evidence and maintaining a “believe the accuser no matter how outlandish the story or how poor the accuser’s credibility is” policy.

  9. k fischer says:

    BS@1200,

    What prevented your friend from picking up the phone and calling her/family/CPS or asking CID to submit an RFA to another CID office to interview her/family/CPS?

    If a dog won’t hunt, then get a dog that will, or get some waders and fetch your own ducks.

  10. John O'Connor says:

    My admittedly limited experience in the late 1990s was pretty much the opposite of the prevalent meme — I found that commanders were very reluctant to be the one to make a decision not to prosecute an alleged sexual assault no matter how problematic the charges. Many of our cases were declined out in town. The CAs possibly would be willing to follow an IO recommendation not to prosecute, but even then were more likely to go forward contrary to the IO’s recommendation if the complainant wanted to proceed. This of course led to a horrible conviction rate (though I also would agree that there are structural aspects of courts-martial in combat arms units — primarily the prevalence of men on the panel and an idealistic failure to believe one of their own could do such heinous things — that also reduced the likelihood of conviction).

  11. k fischer says:

    Bart @ 1200,

    Sorry, I should have said NCIS.

    You have a great personal story, by the way. I saw your bio on Marines.officer.com.

  12. k fischer says:

    JO’C,

    On the not so heinous complaints, I think that male panel members might better relate to the accused and don’t want to convict on things that they might have done, such as having sex with a female they met in a bar and appeared to be tipsy, but still capable of consent, or where a female hesitantly said, “No,” but her body was still saying “Yes.”

    Don’t sell female panel members short, either. I remember one case, US v. Sanchez*, where the victim went to her bedroom during a party and thought the man going down on her was her husband, despite the accused having a pierced tongue. During voire dire, the lone female officer panel member stated that she found it difficult to fathom how a woman would not be able to distinguish her husband from another man. After attempting to challenge her for cause, the Government, much to the defense’s chagrin, opted to strike her with their freebie. The accused was convicted by the remaining all male panel.

    *I was not the TDS counsel on the case.

  13. Just Sayin' says:

    We can talk all day about the spurious and questionable charges that we are forced to go high and right on for CYA, but face it…would we feel such a need to go high and right if we weren’t also getting black eyes in the media every time a Convening Authority does something like approve a week of confinement for a serial predator? The answer isn’t to freak out and go high and right on everything, but to take a real hard look at the cases that AREN’T being prosecuted, or are being swept under the rug.

  14. Charles Gittins says:

    I am with JH on this one. It’s all about placating those with an investment in the “Victim Advocacy” lobby. It is big business with DOD letting big money contracts.