Tagged: military sexual assault

Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Report Ignores Problems Says One Senator

Posted by Debi Teter

Last Friday the DoD issued the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’ (SAPRO) annual report on sexual assaults and harassment in the military. The report showed that sexual assaults reported by military personnel numbered 6,131 in 2014, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., isn’t satisfied saying the report fails to account for attacks on  military spouses and civilian women at bases nationwide.

“The more we learn, the worse the problem gets,” Gillibrand said in releasing an analysis by her office of limited data provided by the military on 107 cases at the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in California and  Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Gillibrand’s review of the cases showed “a high prevalence of sexual assault against civilian women near bases and civilian spouses of service members — two survivor groups not counted in DoD prevalence surveys.” Gillibrand charged that military spouses and civilian women who live or work near military bases “remain in the shadows” because neither group is counted in the SAPRO reports. Gillibrand said that her office asked for all files pertaining to the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault cases from 2009 through 2013 at the four bases in February 2014 – Hood, Pendleton, Norfolk and Wright-Patterson. Instead, DoD only provided the 107 case files from 2013 at the four bases.

“These 107 files are a snapshot of the thousands of estimated cases that occur annually — the latest projection for 2014 alone is 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

“What we’ve found are alarming rates of assault among two survivor groups not routinely counted in DoD surveys, survivors declining to move forward with their cases and very low conviction rates,” she said.

The Pentagon released a statement in response saying: “The department does not have standing authority to survey non-DoD civilian populations. However, federal surveys have found that the prevalence of sexual assault for non-DoD civilian women is statistically the same for military women and female spouses of military members.” In response to Gillibrand’s charges on underreporting, Laura Seal, a DoD spokesperson, said that the trends in the DoD report showed that in FY2014 there were “indications of increased confidence in our military justice system. Reporting is up: We estimate that one in 10 military victims reported in FY2012, and one in four military victims reported in FY2014.”  

Opinion: USAF Pulls Sexual Assault Brochure…Because It States the Obvious

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com louise slaughter objects to USAF sexual assault brochureThe U.S. Air Force pulled a sexual assault prevention and response brochure this week – because it simply stated the obvious. The brochure, which was originally locally distributed to airmen at a base in North Carolina, came under fire from Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who singled out a passage that read:

“If you are attacked, it may be advisable to submit than to resist. You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attack has a weapon.”

Disregarding the grammatical issues, the passage, as originally written, is correct. Furthermore, it is obviously correct, and any four-year-old child could reach the same conclusion. Resistance is not a rational course of action in every case. If there are multiple armed attackers, for example, or if the victim is also responsible for the life of a small child who would be endangered she resists, or if the attacker already has such a jump on her and there is such an imbalance of strength or leverage that resistance would be hopeless, but simply invite further violence, severe injury at the hands of a sadistic psychopath, or death, then submitting until the situation changes may very well offer the best chance of survival against a violent and determined attack.

Indeed, violent criminals frequently choose to target the place and time of their attacks precisely because they can make active resistance a non-option for any rational victim. Resisting an assault attempt of a drunk “friend” is a very different decision than resisting a violent stranger with a knife to the throat or a gun to the head, or to a child’s head. 

Not every rapist conforms to Representative Slaughter’s assumptions concerning his modus operandi or motive. Some are easily deterred by resistance, and some will be simply emboldened to new heights of rage or cruelty. Only the victim in this case – the person on the scene – can make the decision whether to resist in hopes of escape or to submit in hopes of survival.

This is elementary – and well-known to criminologists. So it takes a lot of nerve to question it, or to try to second-guess the decisions made in real-time by victims of attack.

Unfortunately for the country, Representative Slaughter has that nerve. Indeed, not only does she object to the simple truth written in the pamphlet; she characterized the pamphlet’s accurate and reasonable advice as “shockingly offensive and inappropriate.” 

In a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Rep. Slaughter wrote, “Attached is a partial copy of the brochure from Shaw Air Force Base which contains multiple victim-blaming and inappropriate messages regarding sexual assault. Please review all the materials that your office uses, and employ the assistance of outside experts in sexual assault prevention and treatment in your efforts to ensure that the appropriate messages about sexual assault prevention and response are being provided to all servicewomen and men. We cannot perpetuate the myths of sexual assault and expect to see real change in the prevalence of such events at the same time.”

It is not clear to which of the crime prevention and coping techniques in the pamphlet Rep. Slaughter was referring. I read the pamphlet as published by her staff on her own Website, and wasn’t able to find a single sentence that could remotely be construed as “victim blaming” or “perpetuating the myths of sexual assault.”

The Department of Defense groveled to her when it responded, not by defending their reasonable pamphlet on the merits, but by simply withdrawing it from circulation. Because it is somehow preferable for female airmen stationed at Shaw to have no written guidelines or advice on how to protect themselves from sexual assault than to have access to this document.

“No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should ever be told `it may be advisable to submit than to resist’ in the case of a sexual assault,” Slaughter said in a separate statement, though without any argument to advance her ridiculous assertion. “I am cautiously optimistic about the Pentagon’s agreement to review all sexual assault prevention materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right direction and a small victory for victims.” 

Aside from being an insult to every rape or assault victim who felt she could not resist without risking more severe injury or death (Does Rep. Slaughter believe such a woman is somehow less because she made a judgment call that allowed her to survive?) Slaughter’s statement is so ill-thought-out and absurd that one is hard-pressed to believe it came from an adult mind. The obvious point of the passage was to give advice to those who may become victimized should efforts at prevention fail. Even if the DoD were somehow successful at eliminating sexual assaults on the part of servicemembers entirely, not every female servicemember who is attacked is attacked by another servicemember. This, too, is glaringly simple to grasp.

What is not so easy to grasp is why a member of Congress with no particular expertise in military affairs has so much time on her hands that she can concern herself with the micromanagement of the tiniest minutiae of the management of an Air Force Base not even in her district. 

It’s also unclear why it is the Air Force knuckled under to this kind of ignorant PC meddling from someone who has such a casual relationship with truth and who obviously doesn’t think very hard.

Then again, considering the fact that the Air Force just went through an exercise confiscating copies of Men’s Fitness magazine and images of WWII nose art because they may be offensive to women, the cravenness of Air Force officials, cowed by purveyors of political correctness beyond reason or parody, is becoming more predictable, if not more rational.  

General Dempsey: Commanders Should Be Part of Solution

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com gen dempseyIn an appearance on the CNN Sunday talk show State of the Union, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey reiterated opposition to calls from some in Congress to take the responsibility for sexual harassment and assault investigations out of the hands of commanders.

The General said that the military has been able to solve severe disciplinary problems in past generations – including race riots in the barracks and an epidemic of drug abuse in the ranks – that seemed unsolvable at the time. “We didn’t do it with the exclusion of the commander,” said Dempsey, himself a veteran of the 1970s Army. “We did it by making the commander take responsibility.”

The General was referring to proposals like those of Kristin Gillebrand (D-NY) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) which would have stripped unit commanders of discretion over whether sexual assault or harassment cases should go to trial, and instead delegating that authority to experienced military lawyers in special offices. These attorneys, according to Gillebrand’s proposal, would hold 0-6 rank or higher. 

Opinion: Fight Sexual Predators in the Military – But Not with Junk Data

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Sexual Predators in the Military In January of 1993, a group called FAIR, or Fairness and Accuracy in Media ran a Superbowl ad drawing attention to the problem of domestic violence. All well and good. But in statements the group released to the press at the same time, they also told reporters that women’s abuse shelters reported a 40 percent increase in requests for help on or immediate after Superbowl Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sheila Kuehl, speaking at that time for the National Women’s Law Center, also told reporters that there was a 40 percent increase in reports of violence against women after the Superbowl, as well as after Redskins victories, in her local area. She was actually citing an earlier academic study, “The Impact of Professional Football Games Upon Violent Assaults on Women,” G. F. White, J. Katz, and K. E. Scarborough, Violence and Victims, vol. 7, no. 2, 1992.

Kuehl and FAIR believed that the Superbowl contributed to an environment of hyper- or übermasculinity. The combination of having a bunch of men over for testosterone-fueled bonding, alcohol, time off work, and women all led to an increase in abuse. One group even sent out mailers warning women not to stay at home with their husbands or boyfriends for the game.

It was one of those stories the media loves that’s just too good to check. Good Morning America, the Orlando Sentinel Tribune, the Boston Globe, the New York Times and the Hartford Courant all ran with the story. The Times even called the game “The Abuse Bowl.” Boston Globe’s reporter cited FAIR as her source for the 40 percent increase story. But the story was garbage from the beginning. Walter Ringle, a reporter for the Washington Post, tried to track down the numbers. A close look at the statistics revealed that the claims were baseless. There was no statistically significant increase in reports of domestic abuse during or immediately after the game that could not be explained by a holiday and an increased number of people off work. FAIR and the Women’s Legal Network were either lying or hopelessly misunderstood the statistics.

Nevertheless, even though the story has long since been debunked – with in days of its first appearance, a lie can go round the world twice before the truth has a chance to put on its boots. Some reporters are still falling for the bogus story. 

Christina Hoff Summers tells the story in more detail in her book, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women.

Similarly, Gloria Steinem once claimed that 150,000 to 200,000 women in America die of anorexia each year – a claim that is absurd on its face. The real number was about 100 in 1983, when she made the claim. But that didn’t stop Naomi Wolf from repeating the bogus stat in her own book, The Beauty Myth, nor Ann Flanders, nor a number of college textbooks and credulous media members. It’s not hard to find the stat unquestioningly cited today. But again, a number of media sources ran with it, because the story was too good to check. (After Sommers published Who Stole Feminism, FAIR pushed back against Sommers, who, in turn, responds to their criticisms here.)

Women’s advocacy organizations and their allies in politics and media have a long and rich history of leveraging dubious statistics, junk science and outright lies to advance their claims. “We’re not talking about a few errors, we’re not talking about occasional lapses; we’re talking about a body of egregiously false information at the heart of the domestic violence movement,” Hoff Sommers said of domestic violence statistics and claims in a 2011 speech. “False claims are pervasive. False claims are not the exception, they are the rule.”

The motivation, very often, is money. The more push-polling they can generate, and the more of a media frenzy they can create, the more funding they can generate for non-profit organizations that pay big salaries to women and reliable Democrat campaign donors.

So you’d think there’d be a little more circumspection on the part of policymakers and the media this time around.

No such luck.

It’s not an isolated instance of factual misstatement, says Hoff Somers. “We’re not talking about a few errors, we’re not talking about occasional lapses; we’re talking about a body of egregiously false information at the heart of the domestic violence movement. False claims are pervasive. False claims are not the exception, they are the rule.”

Fast-forward to today’s focus on sexual misconduct in the military. The media – us included – are happy to breathlessly repeat the military’s own data that say that 19,000 women in uniform last year were the victims of sexual assault. But if you look deeply into the data gathering mechanism, it’s not clear at all what the statistic measures. 

Last week, Senator Kristen Gillebrand (D-NY) took a page from the National Women’s Law Center – the same crew responsible for the junk Superbowl data referenced above argued that the DoD should strip unit commanders of their ability to prosecute sexual assaults and give it to special inquisitor lawyers, exclaimed that some commanders “can’t tell the difference between a rape and a smack on the ass.” 

I’ve never met such a commander or servicemember. But I have seen the surveys – and the fact is that it’s not commanders who can’t tell the difference: It’s the data gathering system itself. For example, a look at the most recent report to Congress on the state of sexual harassment and assault at the service academies reveals that there is nothing in the data to differentiate a rape from a smack on the ass. Both of them statistically qualify as sexual assaults. The service academies report itself states that “unwanted sexual contact is the survey term for the crimes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that constitute sexual assault, which range from rape to abusive sexual contact.”

Abusive sexual contact could be anything from an unwanted locker-room towel snap to a rape or attempted rape. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing any kind of differentiation between the acts reflected in the data – but they all get conflated in breathless claims of tens of thousands of servicemembers – half of them men – being victimized. They are all reported the same. There is no mechanism in the data to tell one from the next. All get lumped in to generate the 19,000 women assaulted figure that gets run by the media. To believe it, you have to believe that a division’s worth of men gets sexually assaulted every year… and another division’s worth of women.

We don’t have to tolerate any of it, but the military, being led by the nose by some of the very same organizations such as the Women’s Law Center responsible for recklessly issuing bogus data in the past, is having trouble correctly defining the problem. If we cannot define the problem, and calibrate a response appropriate to towel snaps vs. unwanted shoulder rubs vs. sexual assault and rape, then we cannot adequately address it without causing a devastating witch hunt atmosphere within the military – and tipping the balance of power in favor of the small minority of people willing to file false claims. There were 444 allegations of sexual assault within the military in 2012 that were classified as “unfounded,” a 35 percent increase since 2009, according to reporting from the Washington Times. Some of these claims may simply have been unproveable or disbelieved by investigators, while others were fabricated outright. It is impossible to tell how many, though the experiences of the Duke University lacrosse team, falsely accused of rape and charged on trumped up premises by a corrupt prosecutor should give everyone pause – especially so in in a world where the percentage of false rape allegations range from 2-10 percent to as much as 41 percent of all forcible rape cases in this study.

Everyone agrees that sexual predators of all ranks should be drummed out of the service. Everyone agrees that those who commit crimes against servicemembers – or anyone else – should be put in jail. But unless the DoD does a better job of managing their data and analysis points, they run the risk of cracking down on 956 out of every five actual sexual predators.

Military Court Rules Obama Exerted “Unlawful Command Influence” in UCMJ Sexual Assault Trial

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

sexual assault UCMJ trial A U.S. Navy sailor accused of sexual assault and facing a UCMJ trial has prevailed in a motion to throw out the possibility of a dishonorable discharge, because his court martial was tainted by undue command influence by the President of the United States. A PDF of the ruling obtained by Stars & Stripes is available here.

According to the presiding judge, Marcus Fulton, the president’s problematic remarks were as follows: 

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Why were these words problematic? Because there is nothing in the UCMJ that requires that someone found guilty of sexual assault be fired or dishonorably discharged. Court martial convening authorities are, by law, supposed to operate free of command influence. Appeals courts have already repeatedly held that it is unlawful for a commander to “send word” of a desired case outcome to the members of a court martial. This would be a violation of Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This article reads, in part: 

(a) No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts. The foregoing provisions of the subsection shall not apply with respect to (1) general instructional or informational courses in military justice if such courses are designed solely for the purpose of instructing members of a command in the substantive and procedural aspects of courts-martial, or (2) to statements and instructions given in open court by the military judge, president of a special court-martial, or counsel.

While the president, as the civilian commander in chief of the Armed Forces, is not directly subject to the UCMJ, the judge in this case ruled that President Obama’s words constituted sufficient interference in the court martial proceedings that no sentence including a discharge could be trusted as free of undue influence.

The judge also referenced Congressional interference in the UCMJ process, pointing to an instance last month in which Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) blocked Air Force Lieutenant General Susan Helm’s promotion.

“As the senator works to change the military justice system to better protect survivors of sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable, she wants to ensure that cases in which commanders overturned jury verdicts .?.?. are given the appropriate scrutiny,” said a spokesperson for Senator McCaskill to the Washington Post.

If this were done by members of the chain of command, this, too, would have been an unlawful violation of Article 37 of the UCMJ, which prohibits those covered by the UCMJ from using an officer’s conduct or decisions while a member of a UCMJ court martial against him or her in officer evaluations or promotion consideration. Again, this is to insulate UCMJ proceedings from political or unlawful command influence.

A similar case is winding its way through the military justice system. When the Air Force’s own head of sexual assault prevention programs, Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Kusinski was arrested for an alleged drunken sexual assault, the Secretary of Defense personally called the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, to express his outrage and either promise or extract a promise from Secretary Donly (the Washington Post’s reporting is not clear as to which) that the matter would be “dealt with quickly and decisively.”)

Kusinski’s defense counsel will no doubt raise the issue of unlawful command influence in the UCMJ proceedings. Given the precedences already in place, including this one, it is difficult to imagine a court finding that there was no undue command influence taking place. What is less clear is what the proposed remedy would be.

We first raised the alarm bells about undue and unlawful political and command influence in UCMJ proceedings here, where I wrote “Where any decision in favor of a defendant in a sexual harassment case is liable to come under fire straight from Secretary of Defense, and potentially become a career-ender for any officer, then we can trust no prosecution.” At least one military judge agrees, as far as the sentencing goes.

Meanwhile, if this sailor is indeed convicted, and if he is indeed guilty, the military may well be stuck with a sexual predator they can’t discharge. Who loses? Good sailors. 

House Passes 2-Year Minimum Sentence for UCMJ Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

2-Year Minimum Sentence for UCMJ Rape The House of Representatives handily passed a measure to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years confinement, plus dismissal or dishonorable discharge, for those convicted of rape or sexual assault under the UCMJ. If the measure is ultimately signed into law as part of a larger bill, it would increase the stakes for any servicemember accused. It would also make it more likely that the offender will never target anyone else while in uniform. This is important because last year nearly 25 percent of those convicted via the UCMJ remained in the service.

According to the Servicewomen’s Action Network, the military received 3,192 reports of sexual assaults against its members – overwhelmingly against women. The military considered 1,518 of them to be “actionable,” meaning the severity warranted criminal prosecution under the UCMJ, the event fell under UCMJ jurisdiction, and there was enough evidence, in the estimation of prosecutors, to potentially obtain a conviction. Out of the roughly 8 percent of the total number of sexual assault reported, there were 191 convictions. Of these, about 148 were discharged or dismissed. Another 15 or so resigned rather than face trials. That still leaves a significant number of troops who were allowed to remain in uniform despite a UCMJ conviction for sexual assault on their records.

The UCMJ includes a potential death sentence for rape under article 120. This article has already been reviewed and revised in 2007. Under the old law, prosecutors had to demonstrate that the accused had had sexual contact with the accuser without consent. Congress’s revision effectively put the burden of proof on the accused. Instead of merely needing to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s claim, the revised statute required the accused to prove that the accuser actually consented to the sexual contact.

Some courts have found this burden shift to be constitutionally questionable, violating the right to due process under the 5th. The law also removed the question of consent as an element of the crime, in an attempt to place investigative focus on the accused rather than on the accuser. There were significant problems with this approach, since the 6th amendment still guarantees the accused the right to confront witnesses against him. Congress therefore revised Article 120 again in 2012. More details here.

There has only been one execution for rape under the UCMJ since WWII: Pvt. John Arthur Bennett was hanged in 1961 at Fort Leavenworth for raping and attempting to murder an 11-year old girl in Austria. Earnest L. Ransom was also executed at Fort Leavenworth in 1957, but he had also been convicted of premeditated murder along with raping a 14-year-old Korean girl. 

DoD Launches New Online Resource for Victims of Rape, Sexual Assault or Harassment

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Online Resource for Victims of RapeThe Department of Defense announced the creation of Safe HelpRoom – a new peer-to-peer support resource for servicemembers and transitioning servicemembers who believe they have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed. 

(Note: If you have just been assaulted or raped, read this first for tips on how to preserve evidence and preserve your options and law enforcement’s options if you want to pursue criminal charges against your attacker.)

SafeHelpRoom is an add-on feature to Safe Helpline – an online resource fielded last year via a contract with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN. It provides a way for victims to communicate with one another and to connect with support services counseling and advice through an anonymous Internet chat portal. According to RAINN, their network does not record the IP addresses of those who log into their system – though if servicemembers do so from their work computers, it is possible for their supervisors to determine their online activity from the DoD’s own logs.

RAINN workers will also conduct two online Safe HelpRoom sessions for two hours, twice per week. The schedule is posted at the website, www.SafeHelpline.org. These workers will have information on available help and resources near military bases and other possible supports for victims. It is not necessary to have filed a restricted or unrestricted report via SHARP or to have already gone to the chain of command with your report before signing on to Safe Helpline.

Alternatively, servicemembers, including those who have recently retired or ETS’d, can call 877-995-5247, 24 hours a day, seven days per week.  The phone number is the same for use inside the U.S. or via the Defense Switched Network (DSN).

“Safe HelpRoom was designed with unique safeguards to ensure a safe and welcoming place for survivors to connect,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office. “Safe HelpRoom is the first of its kind to require participants to commit to a series of ‘ground rules’ of acceptable behavior before entering a session. Additionally, each participant comment is reviewed to ensure it complies with the ground rules prior to posting for the group to see. Safe HelpRoom provides a secure and private environment for positive and supportive discussions.”

The Department of Defense estimates that up to 26,000 servicemembers experienced sexual assault in 2012, which is up from about 19,000 in 2011.  The numbers are based on an anonymous survey, however. However, only 3,374 people actually reported the assault.

Among those who reported that they experienced an assault but did not report it, about 47 percent reported that they did not do so because they feared retaliation or reprisal. Moreover, 43 percent of those surveyed said they had heard about the negative experiences of others who reported being attacked.

The officer in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, was arrested last month for allegedly groping a woman – suggesting that the recent U.S. Air Force crackdown on images of WWII nose art and copies of Men’s Fitness magazine in the work areas may have been off target.

Naturally, the other services will be following suit.

Meanwhile, another report, focusing specifically on the service academies, indicated that there were a total of 80 sexual assaults reported through the chain of command or through SHARP auspices during the 2011-2012 academic year; 38 of them were “restricted reports,” that were, at the victims request, not referred to commanders to consider UCMJ action. 42 percent were ‘unrestricted,’ meaning that commanders were informed of the details, and if they believed the evidence warranted prosecution, could be referred for UCMJ action against the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators. Four of those restricted reports were later converted to unrestricted at the victim’s request.

Incidentally, the number of reported cases of sexual assaults has risen dramatically at the service academies, rising from a low of 25 during the 2008-2009 academic year to 41, 65 and 80 in the following years.

 

Sex Assault Victims No Longer Need Report Counseling on Security Clearance Forms

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military sexual assaultVictims of sex crimes no longer need to report receiving counseling on security clearance applications. The Director of National Intelligence announced the new policy on April 5th.  Previously, any federal employee or contractor who sought a secret or top-secret security clearance had to report any mental health counseling.

“I believe that this interim policy guidance will positively impact national security,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a statement. “The U.S. Government recognizes the critical importance of mental health and supports proactive management of mental health conditions, wellness and recovery.” 

Specifically, the new guidance authorizes victims of sexual assaults to answer “no” on Question 21 on Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions. That question asks if you have in the last seven years consulted a health care professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition or if you were similarly hospitalized. The only exceptions were for matters related to grief, or for marriage or family counseling where violence was not a factor.

In the past, victims of sexual assault who expected to seek security clearances or renewals were hesitant to seek counseling, for fear that the fact that they were in counseling could result in a denial of their security clearance. For many of these individuals, loss of a security clearance would be a severe black mark on their careers. However, if they lied about it, that could also cause them to lose their clearances. Some victims may have left the military and intelligence services altogether, rather than answer “yes” on Question 21.

In the future, pending a final revision to the policy, the Director of National Security has ordered federal officials to alter SF 86, adding the following passage: “Please respond to this question with the following additional instruction: Victims of sexual assault who have consulted with a health care professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition during this period strictly in relation to the sexual assault are instructed to answer No.”

Director Clapper singled out the Servicewomen’s Action Network (SWAN) for their advocacy on behalf of sex assault victims and for their help in formulating the new policy.

As the Director of National Intelligence, Clapper leads intelligence integration across the 17 federal organizations that comprise the Intelligence Community. In that role, Clapper also serves as the principal adviser to the president and the National Security Council on intelligence issues related to national security.