SAPRO Director: ‘No One Declaring Success’ on Sexual Assault

Dec. 4, 2014 | BY Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. , DOD News
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Despite a decrease in the prevalence of sexual assault in the military, the Defense Department is not satisfied with its progress, the director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow and Dr. Nathan Galbreath, senior executive advisor to the DoD SAPRO, discussed findings from the department’s annual report on sexual assault in the military.
Snow said the report documents substantive and comprehensive progress since 2012 which he thinks was ignited by senior leadership engagement, a commitment to transparency, and collaboration with experts, Congress, and other federal partners.
“However, no one here is declaring success,” he said. “We have much more work to do. However, any decrease in prevalence indicates that there are fewer victims of this horrible crime, and I think we all would agree that is a step in the right direction.”
“Our focus is truly on reinforcing a climate where sexual assault is seen as unacceptable,” he said, “not just because it’s illegal, but because it is counter to our core values.”
Comprehensive Report on Sexual Assault
The comprehensive, 1,000-page report details the department, National Guard Bureau and Coast Guard’s efforts to eradicate sexual assault.
“The report reviews,” he said, “by lines of effort, significant improvements made in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, criminal investigations, and the military justice system over the past three years.”
 “While we believe that this report demonstrates significant progress,” he said, “we are in no way suggesting that we have accomplished our mission of eliminating sexual assault from the United States Armed Forces.”
“We've got much more work to do,” Snow said. “To this end … the secretary is directing initiatives to further enhance the growing climate of dignity and respect.”
Senior Leader Engagement Fosters Progress
Since the establishment of the SAPRO office in 2005, Snow said the department has taken many steps to enhance its efforts help sexual assault victims, hold offenders appropriately accountable, and encourage force-wide support in the prevention of these crimes.
Snow credited much of the progress made to “unprecedented, sustained senior leadership engagement.”
“In fact, Mr. Hagel’s willingness to put this problem on his weekly schedule has been a key factor that has sustained much of the attention paid to this problem,” he said.
“Over the past three years, the secretaries of defense have directed 41 initiatives to improve, expand or field new capabilities for sexual assault prevention and response,” he said. “Many of these initiatives have been codified by law, making them permanent.”
Through 12 metrics and six non-metrics, or observations of the military justice system, approved by the White House, Snow said the department found evidence of progress.
“Overall,” he said, “the department found evidence in 10 of 12 metrics. The report also details our progress in many additional areas that demonstrate our focus on prevention and our uncompromising commitment to victim assistance.”
“These improvements are solid substantive changes to how our program is applied across the force,” Snow said.
The department’s leading indicators about the problem of sexual assault show continued progress, he said.
Correcting Media Reports
Snow emphasized that, contrary to media reports, sexual assaults did not rise -- only reports of the crime did.
“Our survey results indicate that there were 6,000 to 7,000 fewer sexual assaults in 2014 than in 2012,” Snow said, “while our reports of sexual assault continued at the same high rate last year.”
“In fact, in 2014, we experienced an 8 percent increase in reports of sexual assault made to DoD authorities,” he said.
Snow said he wanted to clarify misreporting on the increase in sexual assaults.
“The increase was in reports,” he said, “which … in this particular crime an increase in reports [is] a good thing.”
Given the decrease in prevalence and the increase in reporting, Snow said DoD estimates one in four victims reported sexual assaults in 2014 – an increase from one in 10 in 2012.
Approach to Halting Sexual Assault
The general said the department has approached sexual assault through its strategic plan organized by lines of effort.
“For example,” Snow said, “the prevention line of effort captures the work we’re doing to stop the crime. Past research shows that there are likely to be fewer sexual assaults in units with healthy climates.”
“As a result, in 2013, the secretary directed every unit commander to be required to regularly assess their unit and act on the feedback from that assessment,” he said.
That assessment process, Snow said, includes accountability measures since each commander’s immediate supervisor is also provided the results of that assessment.

“Each of the services has implemented policy that allows unit commanders’ actions to be assessed annually on their performance evaluation,” he said.
“So this cycle of assessment, feedback, action and evaluation is something that the department has not had in prior years,” Snow said.
“We do expect it to be a particularly powerful aid in promoting long-lasting and meaningful organizational change to prevent not only sexual assault, but other factors that impact unit health,” he said.
“The steps we have taken, energized by our leadership, are real and tangible,” Snow said.
Reforms to Aid Progress
Also included in the report, Snow said, is a review of the reforms to the military justice system since April 2012.
“The military justice system has seen substantive change over the last few years,” he said. “In fact, last year’s changes were the most sweeping reforms since the late 1960s.”
Reforms such as the substantive expansion of victims’ rights and legal protections, and the limitation of commanders’ discretion over sexual assault cases are currently underway, Snow said.
Additionally, Snow said the department is reviewing the response system panel’s 132 recommendations to further improve sexual assault prevention and response, and the judicial proceedings panel is studying reforms that have already been implemented.
More Progress Needed
The general said DoD will continue to monitor and publicize its progress.
“We are not satisfied and recognize that future progress will be defined by continued decreases in prevalence of sexual assault,” Snow said.
“It is our intention to continue prevention work as broadly and as creatively as possible so as to reach our goal of eliminating sexual assault from the military,” he added.
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNews)