Coast Guard announces new sexual assault victim advocate standards

U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program logo. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Parker.

Written by Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, Public Affairs Officer, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Director of Health, Safety and Work-Life announced Tuesday the implementation of new and more stringent screening criteria that resulted in removal of the victim advocate designation from 76 active-duty personnel performing that collateral duty.

The implementation of the new screening criteria required a detailed review of background information of the more than 1,000 personnel serving as victim advocates throughout the service.

Memos signed by Rear Adm. Maura Dollymore Nov. 22, clearly state that this decision is not a reflection of the recipient’s performance or conduct, is not an adverse action, is non-punitive and does not affect the recipients’ employment or career progression in the service. The Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program manager has not received any complaints about the services provided by any of the affected victim advocates.

“As part of the Coast Guard’s efforts to strengthen its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, the Coast Guard created a set of screening criteria for the selection of victim advocates. The new criteria are more stringent, require background checks and align with criteria used by the Department of Defense,” said Dollymore. “This new screening criteria, coupled with our ongoing victim advocate training standardization and credentialing efforts, will help ensure we have the best people for this demanding and critical duty,” said Dollymore.

The Coast Guard’s new, stricter screening criteria for victim advocates disqualifies members if, in the last five years, there was a substantiated alcohol related incident, minor assault, larceny or theft below $100, or removal of good conduct status, among others. This new standard is in addition to previous disqualifying criteria such as credible evidence of criminal activity, sexual assault or harassment and other criminal offenses, which remain in place.

Additionally, the necessity for background checks under the stricter screening criteria infringes on certain privacy protections afforded Coast Guard civilians, resulting in the recommendation that the Coast Guard align with the other military services in the Department of Defense where civilian personnel are no longer being assigned victim advocate collateral duties; however, civilians will continue to perform in other positions supporting the Coast Guard’s sexual assault prevention and response program.

Although many Coast Guard civilians have successfully served as victim advocates, Dollymore sent memos to 27 Coast Guard civilian employees, stating, “I want to heartily thank you for your service to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program as a victim advocate. Although no longer able to serve as victim advocates, our civilian workforce remains an integral part of eliminating sexual assault from our Service.”

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