Report: Sexual assault investigations not a high priority for DOD

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Written by CBS Investigates Intern Josanta Gray

Sexual assault investigations and related training for investigators are not a high priority for the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office, according to a recent government report.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found the DOD IG's office has not developed a policy and sufficiently overseen sexual assault investigations conducted by the various DOD criminal investigation organizations. The report also accuses the office of not providing adequate training for sexual assault investigators. The Department of Defense Inspector General's office is responsible for reviewing sexual assault investigations to see if they were conducted properly. In 2009, 3,230 sexual assault investigations were reported.

"We take the matter of sexual assaults very seriously. As we noted in our response to GAO, while we concur with the GAO recommendations, we disagree with the characterization that the DOD IG has not performed its responsibilities. We've addressed the important issue of combating sexual assault with the most senior officials in the Department and together expect to make progress in addressing this issue," said Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell in a formal statement.

Representatives from the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) believe military personnel treat rape cases as a "human resource issue, rather than a criminal issue."

"There are so many things wrong with the system," said Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of SWAN. "It's not just other service members that are unsafe, it's people in our communities. No one knows what they have done because many perpetrators aren't even in the system. We need to recognize this isn't just a military issue. Ultimately people are discharged and go home to continue their behavior."

In response, the DOD IG said it has been working closely with several organizations regarding training requirements for sexual assault criminal investigations, restricted reporting requirements for victims of sexual assault, and the preservation of sexual assault forensic examination kits.

Bhagwati believes these organizations are completely ineffective.

"It focuses on poster campaigns. The training and education is very weak," Bhagwati said. "Our tax dollars are supporting a small department that's not even headed by a general. Military leadership doesn't understand that rape is the second most violent crime after murder. Rape is a matter of power."