MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, sent a letter to every Marine explicitly stating sexual assault within the Corps is a serious problem and a crime that must be dealt with.
“Sexual assaults are happening in our barracks, in the work place and at parties,” said Amos. “Marines are not just being victimized by peers; this behavior crosses all ranks. Accordingly, the awakening within the Marine Corps on this starts immediately, with the receipt of this White Letter.”
In response to the forthright direction given by the commandant, Naval Criminal Investigative Service is collaborating with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Criminal Investigative Division, representatives from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program and Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune to implement a sexual assault task force to combat the rising issue at hand.
“We’re just trying to create some synergy and (confront) these issues,” said Joe D. Kennedy, special agent in charge of the NCIS Carolinas Field Office. “What we’re trying to do with the cases is create a really focused attack, going after them aggressively from an investigative standpoint. It’s an aggressive pursuit of any report of sexual assault, and we would not be successful without the collaboration of our partners.”
From now on, a specialized team will put into practice a 48-hour blitz in which they will face each case head-on within the first two days after the incident takes place to try and prevent multiple cases backing up as they have in the past.
“It’s important we’re expeditiously making sure we’re getting to all the witnesses who may have seen or heard anything about the sexual assault,” said Heather M. Bain, assistant special agent in charge for NCISFO Carolinas. “We’re going to get a more accurate account of what happened. There’s evidence that can be lost with the more time that passes. We’re going to use all of the resources we have within the first couple of days to really drill down to preserve evidence, get to witnesses, identify who they are and get them interviewed.”
Last year, 2011, there were 333 reports of sexual assaults and until the end of this fiscal year NCIS will not be able to determine whether it is an increase for 2012, but the first quarter showed a dramatic increase in sexual assault cases Marine Corps wide.
“It’s completely contradictory to the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment,” said Col. Rich Anderson, Marine Corps Installations East assistant chief of staff for security emergency services and the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River provost marshal. “The commandant is spot on.”
Anderson plans to start training PMO, CID and emergency medical services personnel to ensure they are 100 percent capable of contributing to the task force.
“We can always do better on a first-response basis and particularly in the area of sexual assault as far as asking the right questions, securing the crime scene and collecting evidence. I’m going to look into training in that regard,” said Anderson. “I also plan on bringing in Marie Brodie, (the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program manager), and have her people talk to my Marines about the dynamics, the things to look for and some of the common trends victims of sexual assault exemplify.”
The task force will create not only a unity of effort, but a commonality of purpose and simplicity to work together in the prevention of these crimes.
“I think the commandant just wants to reiterate to everyone how important this issue is to him and how important it is to the entire Marine Corps because we have to take care of each other, and we have to do right by victims of sexual assault,” said Brodie. “It’s a way to drill down the message, reiterate the importance, make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to prevent sexual assault and in the instances we can’t, to make sure we are doing everything in our power to support the victim of sexual assault every step of the way."