Lt Col Teresa James Shares Experience with Sexual Assault & Reprisal at DoD IG Worldwide Hotline Outreach Conference

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The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office held a Worldwide Hotline Outreach Conference today July 28, 2016. One of their keynote speakers was Lt Col Teresa James, US Army, Retired, highlighted before on this site. The DoD IG twitter feed shared excerpts from her presentation summarized below. As she spoke, I tweeted with them to bring awareness to the specifics that Lt Col James noted and why they are so important. For a complete listing of the tweets by the DoD IG, please visit their Twitter feed here.

Lt Col James addressed some pretty important issues in these few tweets. The first issue is learning that others have been assaulted by the same person as you were. When one makes the realization that these crimes are happening to others, it instantly kicks in a feeling to protect anyone else from being targeted by this individual. It’s confirmation that what happened to you is now part of a pattern. That feeling of isolation and fear of standing alone against the institution begins to diminish and our fight becomes one that stands not only for ourselves but others too.

Research indicates that not only do most perpetrators operate as serial offenders but they also escalate over time and their crimes become more serious in nature. For example, they may start out abusing animals and progress to crimes like sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, rape, and eventually murder. We won’t know to what extent unless we report the criminal activity in an effort to track the less serious crimes that could be potential red flags for further violence. The Department of Defense claims reporting is up and reporting is up, but it is restricted reporting. Restricted reporting allows the victim of crime to report in order to get healthcare. The individual who committed the crime is not investigated.

Unrestricted reporting allows the Commander to move forward with a case whether the victim wants to or not or retaliate against the victim and force them out of the military . Once the victim of crime reports, they lose control over the process, they lose confidentiality, they most likely will experience retaliation from both their peers and their Chain of Command, and eventually will lose their career. Victims of crime in the military fear the ensuing retaliation that occurs in an environment where most don’t dare say anything for fear they will be retaliated against next. This is the core argument at the center of the controversy in Congress over who the victims of crimes in the military can report to safely. Advocates of military justice reform argue that victims should report to a military prosecutor whose duty is to both investigate the allegation and give due process protections to the accused and accuser.

Lt Col James is the first reprisal case that the DoD IG has substantiated. This substantiation of the issue of reprisal after reporting sexual assault will help build trust and confidence in the Inspector General’s office but we still have a long way to go. Although the James case was substantiated, the DoD IG does not have jurisdiction over the West Virginia Army National Guard. This case is happening real time and we are awaiting how the West Virginia Army National Guard is going to proceed. Will the officer who retaliated against Lt Col James be held accountable and how? Will the repeat sex offender be held accountable and how? Will National Guard leadership address the sexual assault and reprisal policies within their states to provide consistency in how cases are handled? Who holds The Adjutant General accountable if s/he choose to do nothing. Below is a list of other concerns that need to be addressed within the National Guard.

If a victim of crime in the National Guard needs to leave the workplace for safety reasons, do they get sent home and continue to receive pay until an investigation is completed? National Guard soldiers usually live in the same area, in the same state, and own homes. Who gets sent home during the investigation? If an investigation does not occur or the Commander deems that there is not enough evidence to move forward with a case, where does the victim turn? Does the victim of crime need to continue working with the accused? If the accused is found not guilty, yet the victim refuses to work with the individual, how does this get handled? In a lot of cases the next National Guard base is hundreds of miles away and would require a long commute or moving. How are these specifics handled from a policy perspective?

Does the National Guard keep records of reports of crimes? We are fully integrated with the active duty ranks. We need the ability to track reports of crimes so we can make connections in patterns. There are currently jurisdiction issues with active duty and National Guard. The National Guard commander is the only one that can legally move forward with a  case against someone in their Chain of Command regardless of where the crime occurred. National Guard soldiers frequently deploy, attend technical and leadership academies, and go on temporary duty with their civilian counterparts. If an individual is reported but the allegations cannot be substantiated, does the alleged incident that occurred on an active duty base get reported back to National Guard commander? Is the information entered into a database so we can make connections between cases? What is the policy for how to proceed with crimes committed by National Guard soldiers on active duty bases?

What is the relationship between the National Guard and the civilian courts? Are Commanders referring cases to the civilian authorities? Are they working with civilian authorities in their state and with active duty and other states to track the crimes perpetrated by the offenders both on and off base? Do they have a discharge policy that include how they will handle those found guilty by the civilian authorities and/or military justice system? How do Commanders initiate investigations of crimes perpetrated by one of their own? Do they investigate? Do they summons outside investigators like the Army Criminal Investigation Division? Do they have policy to address how to prosecute the accused in a National Guard setting? Do they hold Administrative Hearings or do they court martial the accused? If the Commander chooses not to do anything, we now know you can report this and any retaliation that occurs to the DoD IG. After the DoD IG substantiates a case, what’s next?

Who holds a peer, leadership, or a Commander responsible for retaliation? Is it the DoD IG? Is it the Adjutant General? Is it the Governor? Is it the Congress in that particular state? Where are the checks and balances? Have these issues been addressed with policy to ensure there are avenues for redress at all levels including the Adjutant General. If the National Guard investigates, are they providing due process rights to the accused, like a lawyer and the ability to take a case to trial as opposed to being discharged dishonorably with a preponderance of the evidence? Is the victim of these crimes in the National Guard supported with both healthcare options and a victim advocate if they report the crimes? Where are the special victims counsel located? Where is the closest JAG office? Who pays for the lawyers for the accused and accuser? Who prosecutes the cases if not referred to the civilian authorities?

Related Links:
Lt Col Teresa James, US Army, Retired Biography
California Military Sexual Assault Bill Becomes Law
California Bill Could Change Military Sex Assault
Pentagon sexual assault report shows high rates of perceived retaliation persist
First time: IG confirms retaliation against rape whistleblower
The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained
Serving in Silence: Sex Assault Retaliation Complaints Investigated
Highlights of Lt Col Teresa James, Army National Guard, Military Sexual Assault Case

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