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Prevention is Possible- Do Your Part

By April 29, 2016 | Army Reserve Medical Command | May 3, 2016

Lt. Col. Michele Sutak — "Sexual assault is a crime and can only be stopped when everyone understands we all have a role in combating it,” stated the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter.  

Prevention is possible … it takes everyone to understand their role in eliminating sexual assault. This April observes the 12th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month (SAAPM) and the theme is ‘Eliminate Sexual Assault. Know your part. Do your part.’  

The former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “We must ensure that every Service member understands that sexist behaviors, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are not tolerated, condoned, or ignored.”

The Army defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact that is characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commit these acts.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination, which includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature between the same or opposite genders.  

Sexist behaviors are actions and language that discriminate based on a person’s sex. While discrimination and sexism are not criminal in nature, Commanders and Leaders have administrative actions they can take to address these issues as sexist behavior can be devastating to persons and erode the command climate.

“It takes all of us to put a stop to sexual harassment and assault,” said Khandeece O’Neal, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program Manager, for the Army Reserve Medical Command. 

“The Army Reserve Medical Command is doing our best to ensure the safety of our Soldiers, Civilians and Family members by discussing which actions to take and what resources are available to help prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault,” explained O’Neal, a native of New York. “Our overall goal is eliminating sexual harassment and assault by enforcing a zero-tolerance policy.”

The Army Reserve Medical Command SHARP program in collaboration with United States Army Reserve Command SHARP program put a Trial Counsel on military orders to work in partnership with active duty Special Victim Prosecutors at supporting installations.

This team recently prosecuted a 13-year Veteran for sexually assaulting his teenage Goddaughter. The legal team and SARC travelled to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to prosecute the court martial and support the victim and her mother. 

The perpetrator was found guilty of three specifications of sexual assault and one specification of sexual contact. The military judge sentenced him to five years confinement and a dismissal from the service. He was placed in confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 
The case is particularly novel in that the perpetrator was previously indicted by the Tennessee state prosecutors for two counts of rape by force or coercion. However, he was acquitted at a bench trial in Tennessee civilian court. 

The Judge explained that the prosecutor mischarged the case. An analysis of the evidence, history of the case and opinion of the trial judge supported an action for re-trial under U.C.M.J. to maintain discipline in the command. 

The result of this court martial sends a strong zero tolerance message to the accused as well as throughout the command’s footprint that sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated. 

Even when the civilian system determines not to prosecute or fails to convict, the military will seek justice. Empowering victims and prosecuting offenders is a double-headed coin. The SHARP team and the Staff Judge Advocate collaborate to provide compassionate care for sexual assault victims while holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions. 

 “Sexual assault and harassment prosecution is our first priority and we will pursue perpetrators to the full extent of the law,” said Col. Albert Veldhuyzen, a resident of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who serves as the staff judge advocate for the Army Reserve Medical Command in Pinellas Park, Florida. “Our zero tolerance policy means many years in jail for sex offenders.” 

The Army Reserve Medical Command’s strategic approach to sexual assault is prevention-focused with an untiring and firm commitment to victim care and perpetrator prosecution. 

Prevention is possible --- Sexual Assault. Know your part. Do your part.  

By establishing the right command climate, ensuring leadership support, and empowering Service members to safely intervene, the Department of Defense will be the last place an offender wants to be. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, Director, Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Officer, May 1, 2014.