This morning, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Embattled: Retaliation Against Sexual Assault Survivors in the US Military.” The report contains findings based on Human Rights Watch’s independent research into retaliation against sexual assault victims and includes a number of recommendations to Congress and the military on ways we can better protect reporting victims.
The demands of our missions require a level of trust and respect that is violated by this terrible crime. With utmost vigilance we stand the watch, from combating transnational organized crime to fighting terrorism, to stopping human trafficking. Our duty to people demands we project this same vigilance in preventing and responding to sexual assault. We have made great strides, but we are not done yet.
On Wednesday night, Comedy Central aired the season premiere of a show called Workaholics. The show featured a storyline in which a group of characters meant to be Coast Guard recruiters were depicted in a vile hazing incident which included both an illegal criminal act of sexual assault and the involvement of a dog. The show went on to include a scene in which these same characters agreed to take part in a pornographic movie.
Sexual assault is a crime. Sexual assault is inconsistent with our Core Values and degrades mission readiness. Sexual assault is abhorrent to our Service culture.
Vice Admiral Brown’s strategic vision translated the Year of the Coast Guard Family into a program of sustained focus under the Family Campaign Plan. The reinvigorated effort improved family housing, access to family services abd innovative support programs. As the Coast Guard Executive Agent for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Vice Admiral Brown concpetualized and implemented a robust campaign to eliminate sexual assault in the Coast Guard. In close coordination with the White House and the Department of Defense, he guided an Executive Council to identify concerns and improve sexual assault prevention and response policies.
As a ship captain I always enjoyed going up to the bridge to check in with the watchstanders, to scan the horizon and check our progress on the charted course. The State of the Coast Guard Address gives me a similar privilege as Commandant, and yesterday I delivered my fourth and final annual Address in the recently dedicated CDR Raymond J. “Ray” Evans Conference Center in the new Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building.
Leadership and the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment are inextricably connected. As leaders, we need to not only assess our command climate, we need to assess how well we are helping our shipmates understand what is and is not acceptable behavior and the connections between sexual harassment and sexual assault. Both sexual assault and sexual harassment are incompatible with our Core Values and service in the Coast Guard. Offenders can and should expect serious consequences if they decide to engage in either behavior.
Why aren’t you talking with your Shipmates about sexual assault? Why is it so hard to admit we have a problem?
In the inaugural post for our series “Why aren’t you talking with your Shipmates about sexual assault?” we detailed some of the barriers to effective communication that may be hindering our ability to develop a shared perception – a shared reality – regarding the crime of sexual assault in the Coast Guard. We continue that discussion by examining another barrier that not only hinders communication, but also hinders our ability to create change.
Our workforce has committed to eliminating sexual assault from the Coast Guard through better policies, training, victim support services and communications. We must also commit to driving out language and attitudes that serve to silence vulnerable shipmates and empower potential predators. That commitment is an expression of honor, respect and devotion to duty that strengthens our service, wherever we serve.
A Coast Guard petty officer was convicted and sentenced Saturday during a general court-martial at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Gomez was sentenced to confinement of eight years, reduction to pay grade E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.