Navy Victims of Stalking, Revenge Porn Now Eligible for Expedited Unit Transfer

Sailors assigned to Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, take part in the “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” one-mile walk April 23, 2019, during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month onboard the installation. (U.S. Navy photo by Joel Diller)
Sailors assigned to Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, take part in the “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” one-mile walk April 23, 2019, during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month onboard the installation. (U.S. Navy photo by Joel Diller)

In an effort to combat the steep rise in military sexual-assault reports, the Navy has changed the rules governing expedited transfers to another command, making more victims of abuse eligible for the protective measure.

The changes to the Military Personnel Manual authorized Tuesday by Navy Personnel Command state that those eligible for expedited transfers include victims of sexual assault, stalking, "wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images," and "other sexual misconduct."

The expedited transfers are limited to victims who make "unrestricted" reports of offenses, meaning that the victim's commanding officer and law enforcement are notified and a potential criminal investigation can be started.

Restricted reports are filed by victims who would rather not have a criminal investigation or their command notified, according to the military's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program.

Victims filing restricted reports can still have access to medical treatment, emergency care, victim advocacy and counseling services, and legal consultations.

According to the Navy news release, the expedited transfers are meant "to address situations in which a service member feels safe, but uncomfortable, and to assist in the victim's recovery by moving them to a new location."

Safety transfers come into play when "there are concerns for the safety and well-being of service members or their dependents," the service said, and can include temporary duty at another location, a permanent change of activity or a permanent change of station.

Victims serving in the Navy Reserve have the option "to perform their inactive duty training on different weekends than their alleged offender or to perform inactive duty with a different unit in the home drilling location," according to the Navy.

The changes follow a report last week in the biannual survey conducted by the Defense Department of active-duty service members, showing a nearly 38% spike in the estimated number of sexual assaults and sexual misconduct in fiscal 2018.

The data from the DoD's anonymous survey estimates 20,500 service members across the military branches -- about 13,000 women and 7,500 men -- were sexually assaulted in 2018, compared to 14,900 in 2016.

At a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, challenged Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on what she termed the ineffective response thus far from the DoD to sexual assaults in the ranks.

"The new report really is disturbing to me. For years, we've heard from the department that the services have this under control," she said. "We keep hearing from everyone in leadership and all this, but it's not working."

In response, Shanahan said, "We know we have to improve the system itself."

He said the 20,500 alleged instances of sexual assault referenced in the survey should be distinguished from the 4,002 actual reports of cases.

Of those 4,002 reports, about 29 percent were outside the DoD's jurisdiction, Shanahan said.

"When there was sufficient evidence, we took action 100% of the time against the accused," he said, either through courts-martial or other disciplinary action.

"I'm not here to parse numbers," Murray said. "Whatever's been happening is not working, and I'm beginning to think we need to put controls on oversight out of the department. Something's not working."

Shanahan said he got the message. "We don't accept the results, and we know we have to do better," he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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