New tool military members can use to report rape does little for retaliation, advocates say

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Department of Defense has a new investigative tool to help identify perpetrators of sexual assault but local advocates argue the new program helps survivors report their incidents, but doesn't do enough to help with the issue of retaliation.

"This catch program may make an impact with some victims. But we feel Fort Bragg can make a much more overwhelming impact if they address the more pressing issues we see. The command climate, victims facing retaliation and victims not feeling safe at work things of that nature," said Lindsay Knapp of the Rape Crisis Center of Cumberland County.

The program rolled out on Monday.

It allows service members to make what's called a restricted sexual assault report to anonymously detail the incident and suspect information.

The DOD said this will help them identify repeat offenders across the military as studies show that offenders develop patterns and turn serial.

Within the DOD system, survivors already have two reporting options: an unrestricted report which triggers a criminal investigation and alerts their command as well as a restricted report which basically is a private report for research purposes only, essentially what the CATCH system will provide.

Knapp helped survivors who often feel more comfortable filing a restricted report to get some recovery help but also to avoid the pressure of being a witness in court and retaliation from their command.

She's concerned that this catch system doesn't address the "catch 22" that survivors encounter when deciding what's best for them.

"Whether or not their allegations are being taken seriously, whether or not their information is going to be kept confidential. Those are the overwhelming reasons we hear from survivors on why they are not reporting or why they're making a restricted report rather than making an unrestricted report," said Knapp.

Eyewitness News spoke with one survivor who knows fear and frustration first hand.

"During that time I was raped, sodomized and physically beaten," the survivor said.

The soldier went on to explain the trauma of being beaten into miscarriages and dealing with the push back and abuse from her command.

"I was taken out of my position, assigned an escort, I was told I couldn't be trusted and that my integrity was questioned," the survivor explained.

Advocates agreed while the DOD has made strides against rape and sexual assault, the issue of women not filing unrestricted reports that launch investigations and put perpetrators behind bars, is a discussion that needs to happen.

Victims should contact their SARC for more information on the CATCH Program or to make a report of sexual assault.

To locate the nearest SARC, the Department of Defense Safe Helpline provides a responder database available here.
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