We have a problem…

Hello shipmates,

The Secretary of the Navy recently announced our “21st Century Sailor and Marine” initiative, which pulls together a set of objectives, policies and programs, new and existing, to maximize personal and family readiness.

I’d like to cover one of the five areas in the initiative: readiness. More specifically, it’s a readiness problem that has grown at an alarming rate, and we have not been able to turn around – sexual assault.

Folks, we’ve got to face the facts—sexual assault is an attack on a Sailor. On average, these attacks take place every day. Yes, every day. These attacks include “blue on blue”— Sailor on Sailor—think about that. We’ve had a former commanding officer go to jail for ten years because he raped one of his Sailors and we have had junior officers and chiefs, who have also been charged and convicted of sexual assault. We have shipmates committing crimes against shipmates, and we all have to do something about it.

This is my problem and this is your problem. Sexual assault is unacceptable and its roots need to stop at all levels; I can’t tolerate it and you shouldn’t either. It undermines our Navy Core Values and Ethos, and it undercuts safety and readiness. We need to address it for what it is – a real danger.

It is important that we support sexual assault victims and hold offenders accountable. But what we really need to do is prevent sexual assault before it occurs. Some call this “getting to the left of the event.” This means taking a hard look at command climate, and I need your help in this regard. We need to watch our humor, our language and ensure it’s appropriate for the work place. We need to prevent the abuse of alcohol, which is a primary contributor to sexual assaults. We need to promote responsibility for ourselves and each other. Sexual assault is not just happening at “some” commands, it is happening at your command. We need to commit, as a Navy, to not accept this crime at our commands and get rid of the myth that it’s just “part of life.” It is not.

It’s about changing attitudes. It is about leadership at every level getting engaged. It’s about creating a safe environment of dignity and respect for our shipmates. It’s about declaring and committing that we won’t tolerate this in our Navy. And it is especially about “by stander intervention,” stepping in when you see one of our shipmates threatening another. We stand to gain confidence and trust in a Navy that cares about all of its Sailors.

In short, everyone needs to do something about it! In the coming weeks you will hear from your leadership on the prevention of sexual assault as we renew our emphasis Navy wide on this important issue. Let’s face it together, there is no place for sexual assault in our Navy and I know we can resolve this with your effort and focus.


Admiral, U.S. Navy

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  • Ex-BB62ET

    I am no longer on active duty, retired back in 2000 so what I think doesn’t really matter since I am not at the tip of the spear anymore. I can only imagine what is going on these days; but from what I am reading it seems as if my Navy took a turn for the worse. Hopefully you can right the ship…

  • Jfortoday

    I retired in 1998. Sexual assaults and harassment was bad for my 21 years and I know it is still bad…just hidden. As a mental health therapist I see active duty people from up and down the chain of command in my private practice paying cash for fear of retaliation and re-victimization from their peers and chain of command. The CNOs are trying, but the troops are not listening….just hiding.

    • Psv

      Over 18 years ago, I was an active duty wife. I was told to hold my words! I also at that time had been being abused by my now retired sailor spouse. Who at a Military hearing of his “peer 12″ I believe. Stood up and was aloud to say, wait I’m going to give more detail! He would beat me every weekend. On the times I was brave enough to call for help they would send the Military Police to remove him, send him away to RI level 2,3 (something I said was to learn how to drink better)! Now, back to the very last time he did something to me. Ten years ago this month April after the Military hiding his problem I ended up in front of our 3 children having him kick out my front teeth I’m only 4’11 at that time maybe 135 lbs, A 911 call and past abuse was brought to the court, but tossed out because it was just that past abuse. This man stood up and said, ” Self Defence”. Was able to retire with full disability plus some, to this day I suffer from PTSD my teeth are now rejecting the titiamun that was holing the fake teeth in. He never had to pay a cent for the pain and suffering. So to be honest with you this does not surprise me one bit. This is how things how been run for years they will NEVER CHANGE NO MATTER WHO OR WHAT YOU ARE! The assault has alway been there weather it sexual, or beating their wife. It was not WAR, not the Military’s job to deal with it. Sweep it in the rugs so to say. I feel very sorry for anyone now who has the “JOB” of DEALING WITH IT! Now I will step down off my soap box.

  • Lunchbahx17

    The navy didn’t take a turn for the worse, the people in charge just started caring about things they use to not care as much about. Overall that makes the navy look bad while they try and fix it.

  • Tsuth64

    This crime is seriously getting out of hand. One count is one too many and here it is a daily occurance? I find this unimaginable! The sailors that do this belong in the brig for many years. Senior ranks and ratings that do this should go away even longer.

  • Navy Mom Cynthia

    Ex, crime, specifically in this case, sexual assault, has been going on since the beginning of creation. The US Navy hasn’t gotten worse necessarily, its just that we talk about sex crimes more openly now.

    I applaud Admiral Greenert for going public with this information, and especially for making a stand. Thank you Admiral.


  • USN Spouse

    As a wife to an active duty sailor I see many things. One of the issues I see is the prevelant drinking on many commands and at command functions. This past year at the command Christmas party I saw E-7 and above encouraging E-5 and below to drink and act wildly (removing articles of clothes and “dancing” like having intercourse). While the publications of the event said semi-formal cocktail attire female sailors where dressed as if going to a night club including not wearing any panties! One of the E-7′s allowed the spouse of another sailor to begin to undress him on the dance floor. All while the OIC looked on laughing. THIS IS THE ISSUE! People act like this and it is condoned while at command functions it will continue to the work place.

    Another concept is the inter-Navy affairs that occur often on deployments and other times during the year. Once they are home and trying to adjust to family life again the scorned lover misses the contact and out of being hurt they report assault. Sadly this is something that happens when you have men and women working together in close quarters for long periods of time.

    Once those issues are addressed the occurances of sexual assault would decrease in large amounts.

  • Belldandy

    The problem is not being held accountable when we are out in town. Ladies and Gents are no longer safe. I lost my active duty position back in Nov and my command always taught accountablity. Instead of focusing on how to get rid of sailors (PTS and PRT fails) we should be taking out sailors that do not remember honor courage and commitment (things that we were all taught in bootcamp). Cause we are losing too many good sailors keeping too many bad. We also need to start holding chiefs 1st classes and all the above in a chain accountable if your sailor messes up you did too (one team one fight). Its time to go back to the basics and get to the root of the problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dianne.E.McCarthy Dianne McCarthy

    Our society as a whole has a problem. Some men feel that they are entitled to do whatever they want for sexual gratification. They see some women as objects for their pleasure. Some men, assume that since sex is great for them, women doth protest too much. They look at rape as a puritanical construct with no real meaning. When it comes down to it, its mostly a matter of ignorance but for some, its sociopathic. Its amplified in the Navy because of long cruises and mostly male crews. Sailors go wild when they hit port, many pick up STDs on their adventures and many have sex with underage prostitutes who feed their impoverished families with their sex trade wages. Using prostitutes in these poor countries is seen as acceptable, so long as one uses a condom. So, there is a mixed message sent to sailors about sexual behavior. In poor countries, a sailor can buy a child for the day to have sex with, but he’s expected to treat female sailors with the same respect as males. Civilian males travel to these countries for the same reason.

    • http://profiles.google.com/berlemannc C B

      Ms. McCarthy,
      Thank you very much for sterotyping your average United States Naval Sailor. What you have said about USN Sailors frequenting underage prostitutes has been so out of vogue that it is laughable. In my 13 years in as a ship approached a foregin port the NCIS, Ship’s Intel and Security Forces would work actively with the US Government represenatives (whether that is consulate or embassy) and local police/governmental forces to know of the active “houses of ill-repute” and work on preventing sailors from going there. Whether that was posting undercover elements of the local police force with Shore Patrol to watch for US Sailors or by working with the local governments to close off these business. If not that then the ship themselves would place these locations off limits and station near by patrols of Shore Patrol to prevent sailors from going there. If a sailor was found going to this off limits establishment then they faced time with the CO of the ship and potentially faced time with the local governments.
      On top of that training is provided annual at a minimum and for a number of ships that I have been on 24 hours prior to arrival at a port with regards to trafficing in people. How to spot it, how to respond to it and what to do with it. All of which comes back down to the same principles we teach our sailors with regards to anti-terror/force protection while overseas; if it doesn’t seem right then leave and report it to your chain of command.

    • Sailorjoe

      Ms. McCarthy, I want to thank you very much for your extreme narrow-mindedness and naivete and I sincerely hope and pray that you are not and will never be in this country’s Navy. That being said, let me enlighten you: Not all sexual assault are committed by men on women and not all sexual assault are committed by men. The Navy, first of all, understands quite clearly that a sex act between a superior and a subordinate may constitute sexual assault even if the parties involved stand on the basis of mutual consent. The superior is taking advantage and have committed sexual assault.
      The Navy has also been reminded that sexual assault committed by men does not need to be perpetrated on women alone to be a sexual assault. Not does the assaulter need to be a man. Sex assault is often said to be a crime of power and less about the satisfaction of uncontrolled sexual urges. Additionally, any sex act asked for or received for favor – sexual favors – can be construed as sexual assault.
      I suggest Ms. McCarthy that you acquaint yourself with the realities of the modern world before you next open your porthole and stuff your duty bag in the open hatch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dianne.E.McCarthy Dianne McCarthy

    Institutionalized alcoholism is also a big problem in the military. Blowing off steam from the pressures of military life and carrying to my previous entry…the idea that when you’re home you behave in a civilized manner and while your….out there….the rules don’t apply, adds to it.

    • Psv

      Poor EXCUSE! It followed you/them home. Where the RULES applied! What a joke for an excuse! What to you tell the abused loved ones when the abused kills the self because they can no longer go on listening to the lies come from the Commands or higher up?
      What is told to them? Oh, we are so working on it we are fixing it! Drinking plays a HUGE ROLL IN CLOSE TO 97.8% of most Military abuse of all types!

  • http://www.facebook.com/prevailingword1 Fred C. Rochester

    Two things. One, now that the Navy took the lead in same sex unions, sexual issues is now at the forefront. We shouldn’t be surprised about sexual assaults. And yes, it has everything to do with it! Second, and they plan to extend deployments for 8 to 10 months? Which means that when a contingency occurs, a deployment will last up to one year. How do you expect sailors to maintain good order and discipline? Time to re-think deployment strategies, crew rotations, and more liberty options. As part of the battle group work ups for qualifications, they should consider pre, mid, and post deployment instruction on sexual assault. And finally, it’s not about the assault. It’s about the fuel. Salacious material and other forms that stir up assaults must be addressed. One soldier admitted that salacious material was used to help blow off steam (if you know what I mean). Clearly, these forms of “entertainment” is the fuel for sexual assault. Just ask the late Ted Bundy. Oh yes, he was executed in January of 1989 for the sexually assault and murder of a 12 year old, and was responsible for over 29 other assaults that ended in their deaths. At the time of his execution, they were still investigating other murders that he might have been responsible for. If every CO fails to look after the well being of their crew, they could be the one command with a Ted Bundy on board. You do not have to have a few assaults and murders, all you need is just one and that’s the one thing the Navy better deal with before it happens. If it hasn’t happened already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Lewis/100002830477171 Brian Lewis

    I’d like to hear the CNO talk about what he plans to do for the victims that the Navy has broken the faith with. There are thousands of survivors that the Navy has discharged after reporting a sexual crime. Instead of tackling that issue he ducks it by talking about “getting to the left of the event.”

    I also think it is disingenous to talk about the former CO of the USS Momsen receiving ten years because of a sexual assault. The officer will actually serve 3.5 years after he received a plea agreement from Commander, Navy Region Northwest. Why hasn’t the CNO investigated how that plea agreement was approved if he is so serious about clamping down on sexual assault and changing attitudes about “blue on blue” sexual assault?

    I strongly disagree that “the abuse of alcohol … is a primary contributor to sexual assaults.” Has anyone in the Navy leadership actually talked to survivors of this crime to find out what they remember and what they felt while it was happening and what they feel after their commands and the Navy abandoned them? Sexual assault is about power and control over the victim. I remember not having one single solitary drink before my trauma. I think a lot of survivors would say the same thing. What I remember from that day is a constant nightmare. I remember the command culture where the perpetrator was allowed to commit this crime at the same command repeatedly and suffer little to no disciplinary action. Focus on changing the culture rather than making an excuse of intoxication.

    • Kellie

      why is that everyone blames the Leadership? No individual is forced to inform the Command and there is no excuse for anyone not reporting a sexual assault or rape if it truly happened in the first place. Everyone and I mean everyone can simple can walk into a local emergency room any where and receive a rape kit test be performed. I’m sick and tired of everyone blaming the leadership for something as so simple as reporting the crime immediately to local authorities.
      Admiral during your training do you emphasize how important it is for the individual to immediately seek medical attention for a rape test. The best way to convict is DNA!
      Overseas Command’s should offer a secure place for any individual to go for these test’s.

      The Navy must also add a new UCMJ article for those that make false allegations of sexual assault and rape. The Navy has aloud the ability for women to make false allegations with no consequences. No Charges should ever be brought against a individual from a female that makes numerous statements that she thinks something happen. To many outstanding careers are being being destroyed along with innocent families.

  • http://profiles.google.com/berlemannc C B

    Ms. McCarthy,
    As one of my college professors use to say when questionable information came up during a discussion, “Prove it with current and accurate sources”. So please prove that “Sailors go wild when they hit port, many pick up STDs on their adventures and many have sex with underage prostitutes who feed their impoverished families with their sex trade wages”, with some sort of study done by an unbiased research group like a university group or a government research body.

    • Fairwinds247

      C B,

      You must either have never served or have never been deployed at sea if you are asking Ms. McCarthy for “current and accurate sources” to confirm the things she is pointing out. When you see it with your own eyes and it is common knowledge to those aboard ship, you don’t need any current and accurate sources. Prostitution overseas involving our Sailors is RAMPANT to say the very least, and there are still ‘conscience checks’ conducted — just without the obvious announcement. I don’t need a current and accurate source to know there’s a war in Afghanistan right now, but there is, isn’t there? Get a clue.

  • Steven

    Thank you for addressing this important issue, Admiral. Once it is abundantly clear that victims of sexual assault will not face retribution from their commands, victims will be far less inclined to keep silent. It is only in reporting the offenders, investigating the allegations, and holding responsible parties accountable, that the Navy will show that it means business when it says sexual assualts are incompatible with honorable naval service.

  • Saintstide

    Maybe all the talk about how the Navy is failing should be turned towards the parents of these Sailors… There are a lot of kids coming in today that just do not have the morals and value do the past. The Navy, at least, is attempting to raise them!