DOD Statistics on Sexual Assault Are Troubling, But Not For The Reasons You May Think

The newest DoD statistics show that reports of sexual assaults in the military are “up” by thirteen percent. The annual reports states that 7,916 Active service members reported “unwanted sexual contact” or attempts to commit this crime. Roughly eight percent of active-duty females and one point five percent of active-duty males reported “an experience” of unwanted sexual contact. However, of those reports, only 2,683 had “sufficient evidence” to take any disciplinary action and 177 of the reports were proven to be false.

Compare this to the civilian sector, where roughly twenty percent of females and twenty five percent of males report the same.

Ignoring the basic fact that sexual assault in much more prevalent in the civilian sector, Congress and DoD have taken several steps to further decrease the incidents of sexual assault. These measures include staffing every command with (usually) senior enlisted or officers serving as “Victim Advocates” and providing the alleged victim a dedicated uniformed attorney who is often assigned to the alleged victim long before the accused servicemember has a right to that same legal assistance. Additionally, alleged victims can request transfer to another command—a request that is routinely granted—if the allege they were sexually assaulted. Moreover, active duty servicemembers who commit misconduct of their own now may not be punished for that misconduct in the regular fashion if that misconduct was committed or is somehow tied to the servicemember’s report of sexual assault. Finally, finding that 39 percent of alleged victims of sexual assault “don’t trust” the military justice system to prosecute their allegations, Congress has made sweeping changes to the prosecution of sexual assault, including mandating that law enforcement and military prosecutors be experienced in their field and also receive extensive training focused on sexual assault. No such requirements or training are mandated for those who defend those accused of these crimes. Instead, military attorneys assigned to defend those accused of these crimes, often have little experience and no investigative resources. The imbalance created is stark and troubling.

And the imbalance between military and civilian resources is also stark. While civilian’s who allege they have been the victim of sexual assault may have an advocate within the county prosecutor’s office, none are afforded the protections Congress has provided our active-duty members. Yet civilian public defenders are experienced in their craft and have experienced investigators to assist them.

The imbalance deserves attention. While efforts to decrease actual sexual assault in the military are widely supported, care must be taken to protect the accused as well. As the 177 cases that were proven false indicate, unscrupulous individuals DO lodge false complaints to avoid arduous duty assignments or in an attempt to accountability for their own misconduct. Those of us who work hard to defend our defenders are routinely disappointed when our clients, accused of this terrible crime, are ostracized, have their records flagged, promotions upheld, and are forced to defend themselves at a court martial where the many, many of them are fully acquitted, but not before their police records are tarnished with an “arrest for sexual assault,” they spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal representation, and are never again the same person.

What’s worse, many are not even afforded the ability to defend themselves at a court martial. In the Navy and Marine Corps, many of those accused of sexual assault, where the evidence is insufficient to win a conviction at a court martial, are forced to nonjudicial punishment, where they have no right to legal representation, little experience or ability to defend themselves, and subject only to the Commanding Officer’s determination about whether the crime occurred. In the majority of these cases, these defenders lose, and are quickly forced out of the Service, often after many years of honorable service. What’s worse, this NJP “conviction for sexual assault” is made available to civilian employers and the now-former servicemember experiences incredible difficulty gaining employment—for the rest of their lives.

Sexual assault, like all crimes, should be prosecuted and those found guilty held appropriately accountable. However, those who constantly cry that DoD is deficient in its response and that “more must be done” ignores the fact that DoD is far better at reducing sexual assault than those leaders have been in their own districts. And to respond to their own cries, they have created a “special,” victim-centric justice system that incentivizes false allegations and deprives our defenders of the due process they deserve to defend themselves against the lifelong impacts of simply being accused of this crime. And while meaningful efforts to minimize any crime are welcome by all, the Due Process rights of our innocent-until-proven-guilty-defenders must be as equally high a priority. It is not now, and innocent men and women are needlessly suffering.

If you or a loved one are accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment in the military, please reach out immediately to an experienced military law attorney for assistance.

King Military Law

Where Experience Matters Most

Navy Desertion: A Sign of a Bigger Problem?

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Navy Desertion

Much has been written about the recent rash of desertions from the Military, although the Navy seems most affected. In 2021, 157 sailors deserted, risking fairly severe consequences. In addition to loss of pay and benefits, the Sailor is subject to earning a dishonorable discharge and even prison time. Since the Army, Air Force, Marines nor the Coast Guard reported anywhere near these losses, desertions from the Navy may indicate a broader issue.

Last year, a water contamination crisis caused thousands of service members and their families to be uprooted from their homes in Hawaii and the problem took weeks to resolve. Also last year, Sailors interviewed by the Navy Times told stories about being forced to live without even the most fundamental necessities at the Barracks at Naval Support Activity, Bethesda. The barracks were lacking air conditioning throughout the hot months of summer, there was no running water available, and there was no way to secure their residence doors, either for privacy or to prevent incursions.

At Naval Air Station, Key West, Sailors were required to seek out lodging on their own when the Navy decided to close down the barracks for major repairs. Most widely publicized, Sailors aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON were forced to live onboard during major construction. The living conditions were found to be abhorrent and forced the Navy to provide the entire crew with adequate accommodations off-ship, but only after an extreme uptick in suicides got Congressional attention.

In addition to the uptick of desertions, the Navy is separating a record number of (mostly) junior Sailors with “adjustment disorder” discharges. This permits the Navy to discharge a Sailor on the word of one medical professional who often doesn’t even meet with the Sailor before making the diagnosis of “adjustment disorder,” which results in the Sailor being separated with a less than honorable discharge, depriving the Sailor of the GI Bill and other education benefits from the VA.

If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties while on active duty, please reach out to a Chaplain or counselor to get help. If you need to be released from the Navy, there are lawful and POSSIBLE ways short of discharge. Click here to learn more about these options or please reach out to an experienced military attorney for help. At KML, we would be honored to discuss your options during a free consultation. 

Similarly, if you’re being forced out by the Navy with an “adjustment disorder.” Give us a call and let us help.

And if you’re considering suicide, please let someone help:

www. KingMilitaryLaw.com

~~Where Experience Matters Most~~

Military Personnel Need Watch How They Use Social Media

“The Department of Defense (DoD) has had to warn service members about sharing photos from military bases, while the U.S. Army has reminded soldiers that when using social media they must abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) at all times. That includes not posting or even linking to material that violates the UCMJ or basic rules of soldier’s conduct, while also not using the platforms to share/post negative comments about supervisors or to release sensitive information.”

There has been an uptick in courts martial charges stemming from the use of social media. Whether from sending unauthorized pictures of a sexual nature or posting pictures of classified equipment or locations, servicemembers should THINK BEFORE YOU POST. And, if you or a loved one find yourself subject to an investigation or being charged with this or any other crime under the UCMJ, please speak to an attorney experienced in military law as soon as you can.