WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Crime Reduction Program (CRP) is focusing its first quarter campaign of the 2010 fiscal year on sexual assault prevention.
NCIS plans to use command briefings and community outreach events to educate Sailors and Marines about the risks of victimization and the repercussions of criminal sexual behavior, with emphasis on alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults and bystander intervention.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus hosted the first Department of the Navy (DON) Sexual Assault Prevention Summit at the Washington Navy Yard in September, where senior military and civilian DON leaders interacted with subject matter experts to develop effective prevention strategies designed to eliminate sexual assault in the Navy and Marine Corps. NCIS is incorporating information from this conference in its sexual assault prevention campaign.
Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 6495.01 defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority, or a situation in which the victim does not or cannot consent.
NCIS Special Agent Patty Lyons, the family and sexual violence agent at Quantico, Va., said more than 75 percent of her cases are sexual assault cases. She said it's important to focus on sexual assault prevention because many Sailors and Marines don't know the impact that comes with a sex crime conviction.
"Many of these young men and women don't understand that if convicted of a sex crime, most will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives," said Lyons, who has worked sexual assault cases for 20 years as a Marine criminal investigator, Marine special agent, and an NCIS agent.
Lyons said the majority of her cases involve alcohol, acquaintances, and coworkers. More than 80 percent of rape victims know their assailant. NCIS statistics show most military sexual assaults occur in barracks, off-base apartments, and rented hotel rooms, and most of those incidents involve alcohol consumption by the victim, suspect, or both parties.
"When drinking, Sailors and Marines should use the buddy system and make sure that their buddy isn't drinking too," said Lyons.
Other NCIS tips to help prevent sexual assaults include drinking responsibly, knowing personal drinking limits, knowing a partner's age, and agreeing not to leave parties or bars with "new" friends.
Special Agent Carrie Nelson, CRP coordinator, said another key factor in preventing sexual assaults is bystander intervention.
"It is simply standing up and doing the right thing. It's intervening on your buddy's behalf when you see him or her taking advantage of someone too intoxicated to understand what's happening. It's making sure your shipmate gets home safely. It's preventing an assault before it happens," said Nelson. "Bystander intervention is an obligation that every one of us shares. It is our duty to step up and stop someone from becoming a perpetrator or a victim."
Some examples of bystander intervention include making up an excuse to get someone away from a risky situation, pointing out disrespectful behavior, recommending to a bartender or party host that someone has had too much to drink, trying to keep someone from going to an isolated location, and maybe even calling the police.
Nelson pointed out that the most effective intervention often involves taking action before a crime can occur. She added it is important for bystanders to always keep themselves safe, know options that are available, attempt to have other people assist, and avoid violence.
Lyons said victims of sexual assault should report the incident immediately, as valuable evidence can be obtained.
"So many folks don't want to have the stigma of 'I'm one of them,'" said Lyons. "The reality of it is sexual assault is one of those crimes that will only increase if the suspect isn't caught. If someone gets away with it once, they will normally try it again and again."
The Department of Defense (DoD) has two sexual assault reporting policies: restricted and unrestricted. Under restricted reporting, a victim may only notify a victim advocate, sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), healthcare provider, and chaplain. Law enforcement is not notified and an investigation will not be initiated. Victims will be provided a victim advocate and will sign a statement of reporting preference.
With unrestricted reporting, an official law enforcement investigation is initiated, victims will be provided a victim advocate, a SARC will monitor their care, and victims will be updated monthly on the status of the investigation. Once a victim decides on unrestricted reporting, they can't go back and change it to restricted reporting.
Victims of sexual assault or people with information about a sexual assault can call the NCIS Hotline at 1-877-579-3648, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), which will connect the caller to a local rape crisis center. Personnel stationed overseas may utilize the NCIS hotline, contact their local NCIS office, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CRP, launched in October 2008 and spearheaded by NCIS, is an awareness and education program that unites law enforcement and community service organizations with a shared goal of educating Sailors and Marines about common threats to their safety. The CRP has successfully completed four awareness campaigns focusing on domestic violence, identity theft, child abuse and narcotics abuse.
NCIS is a federal law enforcement agency that protects and defends the U.S. Department of the Navy against terrorism and foreign intelligence threats, investigates major criminal offenses and provides law enforcement and security services to the Navy and Marine Corps on a worldwide basis. The agency is comprised of approximately 2,500 total employees, including 1,300 civilian special agents, in more than 150 locations around the world.
For more news from Naval Criminal Investigative Service, visit www.navy.mil/local/ncis/.