Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 8-- A Holistic Navy Approach to Curbing Sexual Harassment The Navy has made many gains in preventing sexual harassment and assaults and unprofessional relationships. Prevention calls for constant review, new initiatives and emphasis on core values.
Volume 12, Number 8
A Holistic Navy Approach to Curbing Sexual Harassment
Prepared remarks by John H. Dalton, secretary of the Navy, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 4, 1997.
I am pleased to appear before the committee today to testify on our efforts targeted at prohibiting sexual harassment, sexual assault and unprofessional relationships.
During the past five years, the Navy and Marine Corps have worked hard to institutionalize the concepts that sexual assault, sexual harassment, hazing, abuse of power and fraternization are unacceptable and that any sailor or Marine who engages in or condones this sort of improper conduct will be dealt with appropriately. Additionally, we endeavor to provide an environment where complainants feel free to report mistreatment and are confident that their complaint will be treated seriously, without reprisal.
While continued diligence in this area is required, we are pleased with recent survey results, which show we are making progress, including the 1995 DoD sexual harassment survey, which reflected a significant decline in reports of sexual harassment for both Navy and Marine Corps. We realize that eradicating unprofessional and unlawful behaviors is a continuous process, one which demands our ongoing attention and complete resolve. Not only is this effort the right thing to do, but it is vital to the continued readiness and success of the finest maritime force in the world.
The Department of the Navy is committed to our core values of honor, courage and commitment, and our policies regarding professional relationships and acceptable conduct are based on these bedrock principles. Our goal is to create and sustain an equal opportunity climate that will be a model for society. The standard is clear -- any form of harassment or discrimination is not only inconsistent with our core values, it also impedes our ability to perform our mission. We have a number of instructions and directives in place which set forth the policies on sexual harassment, sexual assault, fraternization and unprofessional relationships.
Two of our key documents in this regard are the Navy and Marine Corps equal opportunity manuals, which were revised last year. These comprehensive policy documents outline responsibilities and procedures for our equal opportunity program, including discrimination and sexual harassment prevention, complaint filing and resolution and equal opportunity training requirements.
We have been extremely proactive in the area of victim assistance. The Department of the Navy's Victim and Witness Assistance Program ensures that all victims of crime are aware of their rights and are given all assistance necessary to pursue their grievance within the military justice system. Our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response instruction issues policy on the sexual assault prevention/victim assistance program and addresses the specific needs of victims of sexual assault. This instruction also requires the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps to provide an annual sexual assault report. The first annual report is now being compiled and will cover FY [fiscal year] 96.
We have adopted a holistic approach toward eliminating unprofessional relationships in our ranks. We recognize that one of the most effective ways to eliminate sexual harassment and other unprofessional behavior is to modify the conduct that leads to these types of crimes and behaviors.
Alcohol has long been recognized as a major contributor to all forms of harassment, abuse, assault and other misconduct. Last year, I established a senior-level Standing Committee on Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Alcohol Use Deglamorization in the Department of the Navy to provide assistance and advice on matters and policies relating to alcohol use and abuse among sailors and Marines. Our two major programs in this effort are the Navy's Right Spirit and Marine Corps Semper Fit campaigns. The goals of these campaigns are to deglamorize alcoholic beverage consumption and eliminate alcohol abuse in favor of healthy alternatives. We also address acceptable standards of behavior in conjunction with our policies on combating sexual harassment, sexual assault and fraternization. We have also strengthened the language in our directive on alcohol abuse to reiterate the mandatory reporting requirement and the serious professional consequences of any drunk driving offense.
We promulgated our first sexual harassment prevention policy in November 1982, and since that time, the Navy and Marine Corps have worked hard to get the word out about our policies and programs regarding sexual harassment and other unacceptable behaviors.
A major initiative in 1992 was the establishment of the toll-free Equal Opportunity/Sexual Harassment Advice Line to offer advice to members experiencing sexual harassment, provide guidance to commanders processing sexual harassment complaints, advise those accused of sexual harassment and serve as an easily accessible and completely anonymous source for sexual harassment policy and program information.
Also in '92, the Standing Committee for Military and Civilian Women in the Department of the Navy was established. This committee, composed of very senior Navy and Marine Corps leaders, recommends measures to ensure the smooth integration of women within the Department of the Navy and the effective utilization of their professional capabilities. During the past several years, we have been working to implement 80 recommendations made by the standing committee to deal with sexual harassment, gender bias and related issues.
We believe that many unwanted behaviors can be stopped early or prevented if our men and women have the proper tools to identify and confront harassers. In May 1993, we established the Informal Resolution System, or IRS, to do just that. By using a traffic light analogy -- red/stop; yellow/proceed with caution; green/go -- all members are given a better understanding of behaviors which might be considered offensive to others.
To help our commanding officers correctly address these difficult issues, Navy and Marine Corps each have a commander's handbook, which describes those actions to be taken to resolve a sexual harassment case in a timely and appropriate fashion. The Marine Corps handbook was issued in 1993, and the Navy's in 1994.
Additionally, we have training packages out in the field on sexual harassment and unprofessional relationships. We have also held several stand-downs where we took time from our normal duties to focus specifically on these issues.
The highest echelons of the Navy and Marine Corps leadership have provided guidance regarding mandatory annual sexual harassment prevention training, prevention of reprisal actions against complainants, and the need for swift and just adjudication for those who sexually harass or assault.
The Navy's Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Program is designed to reduce the number of sexual assault incidents by providing awareness and prevention education, as well as victim advocacy and intervention. We established 28 SAVI program coordinator positions in 1994. SAVI program coordinators get the word out to all levels of the chain of command through sexual assault awareness and prevention training, and consult with appropriate leadership, legal, law enforcement and medical personnel when an assault occurs.
The Marine Corps Family Advocacy Program's Coordinated Community Response works to prevent domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, provide safety and support for victims, and hold offenders accountable for their actions. The CCR involves military and civilian organizations in the elimination of domestic violence. The program is staffed by 33 victim advocates at the installation level as well as volunteer advocates.
We continue to use as many avenues as practical to communicate our policies to all levels of command, including our various Navy and Marine Corps publications, and other communications from me, the CNO [chief of naval operations] and the [Marine Corps] commandant.
Formal and informal training ensures that our personnel have a clear understanding of policies concerning discrimination, sexual harassment, fraternization and other unacceptable behavior.
Soon after entering the Navy or Marine Corps, all enlisted recruits and officer candidates receive one hour of sexual harassment prevention training. Additionally, in the Navy, all enlisted recruits receive a sexual assault awareness and prevention module within the first five days of recruit training and a one-hour session on alcohol abuse awareness.
A video runs non-stop in the enlisted dining facility at the Navy Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, [Mich.] which discusses our core values, responsible use of alcohol and The Right Spirit campaign.
The Marine Corps has recently initiated the "transformation" program, designed to instill a solid set of values in young men and women desiring to be Marines. The transformation occurs during recruit training in four phases: screening, crucible, unit cohesion and sustainment. We believe this program will bond our new recruits to the principles and values that reject incidents which compromise the dignity of another individual, such as sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment prevention training programs have also been implemented at the Naval Academy and all Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units. Fleet and force training includes a one-hour annual training session for all hands.
The Navy's recently launched leadership continuum provides ethics, core values, equal opportunity, sexual harassment and diversity education as interwoven topics and themes of a wide range of leadership issues. We initiated course development in 1994, and seven of the eight courses (four officer, four enlisted) are already on line, with the final course scheduled to be on line in May 1997. The courses are sequential in nature and occur at key milestones in an individual's career. The Marine leadership development program also stresses the importance of these values in proper leadership.
Personal Responsibility and Values Education Training is a one-week, on-demand training course for all first-term enlistees and newly commissioned officers that addresses sexual harassment, alcohol abuse prevention, sexual misbehavior and assault, suicide prevention, health promotion, tobacco cessation, HIV/AIDS prevention and personal responsibility. It is designed primarily for officer and enlisted members ages 17-26 who have been involved in an alcohol-related incident.
Commanders, at their discretion, can require any command member to complete the course. Over 22,000 Navy and Marine Corps members attended PREVENT in FY 96.
In addition to formal training, a number of courses are conducted at the command level, including command-specific equal opportunity/sexual harassment training in conjunction with the results of the annual command climate survey, the Navy Rights and Responsibilities workshops, which address discrimination and sexual harassment, are required for all Navy personnel within 90 days of reporting to a new duty station with refresher training annually.
SAVI program coordinators and Family Service Center counselors provide sexual assault awareness and prevention training to commands upon request. A Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Program, requiring annual command-level SAVI Program training, is currently in progress.
When sailors or Marines are sexually harassed, those in command are required to enforce the complaint process and properly adjudicate the complaint. The effectiveness of command responsibility is measured through periodic inspections that are conducted by the immediate superior in command and inspector general.
Complainants who are not satisfied with command action may appeal their complaints up through every level in the chain of command. Commanders who have abused their authority, failed to ensure a safe and equitable command environment or otherwise interfered with the complaint process face corrective measures which could include removal from command.
Again, the Informal Resolution System encourages individuals involved in minor equal opportunity incidents or conflicts of any nature, including sexual harassment, to first try using the Informal Resolution System to resolve their conflict and to address issues at the lowest effective level of the chain of command. Complaints not appropriately resolved using the Informal Resolution System are reported via formal complaint procedures. Formal complaints not resolved within 14 days must be updated by the command to CNO or CMC every 14 days until the complaint is resolved.
Sexual assault is a crime and is governed by stringent legal rules of evidence and is adjudicated by civil or military judicial systems. Fraternization complaints are investigated by the command or by the immediate superior in command in cases involving the commander or executive officer.
We monitor sexual harassment education, training and prevention programs in a variety of ways to ensure accountability and effectiveness.
The Navy Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment Survey, and the Marine Corps Equal Opportunity Survey are key assessment tools, providing us biennially with a comprehensive look at our equal opportunity climate. A comparison of NEOSH survey results conducted in 1989 (the first survey), 1991, 1993 and 1995 indicates the Navy has made steady progress in the communication, prevention training and handling of sexual harassment complaints. Although the Marine Corps '96 survey showed some improvement from '94, the commandant has ordered the next MCEOS to be given in '97, a year ahead of schedule, and has directed stronger emphasis on prevention of sexual harassment and sustaining a positive command climate.
In December , we undertook a focus group effort in which male and female trainees at various points in the process were surveyed and interviewed regarding their experiences with sexual harassment and related behaviors since entering the military. Navy assessment teams surveyed males and females and conducted female focus groups and interviews at Transient Personnel Units, recruit training and technical training schools. We found that improper, unprofessional senior/subordinate relationships and abuse of power still occur, but infrequently. When incidents do occur, we found they were generally reported and referred to the chain of command for action. The Marine Corps focus group effort is still ongoing. Early results indicate that gender bias is more prevalent than sexual harassment.
We also track calls to the Department of the Navy EO [equal opportunity]/SH advice line. Calls are logged according to the type of information requested, status of the caller and gender. This permits a "quick look" assessment of those discrimination and sexual harassment issues of concern to sailors and Marines.
Since the advice line's inauguration in December 1992, about 20 percent of the 3,000 callers have indicated that they have been victims of sexual harassment. Although the total number of calls from recipients of sexual harassment has increased in FY 97, this may be due to heightened public awareness since many callers are former members reporting incidents dating back to the 1960s. Active duty calls of this type have not increased.
We have also implemented two semiautomated data collection systems to track sexual harassment and sexual assault cases -- the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment reporting system and Rape and Sexual Assault reporting system.
We know that we have made many gains in preventing sexual harassment, sexual assault and unprofessional relationships, but we also realize that prevention is an ongoing process that requires constant review, new initiatives and a continued emphasis on setting the standard consistent with our core values of honor, courage and commitment. We will continue to move forward on course and will not waver in our determination to rid our fleet and corps of all unprofessional behavior and unlawful conduct. I am personally involved in the process and will continue to be as long as I'm secretary of the Navy.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.