Army creating centralized sexual assault reporting area to better support victims

In a continued attempt to address the sexual assault epidemic in its ranks, the Army is rolling out a new pilot program that will centralize victim resources for a more comprehensive response.

The Army is branding its Fusion Directorate as a new approach to help victims of sexual assault and harassment.

“It is intended to increase accountability, transparency and efficiency by coordinating all victim response elements, including victim advocates, medical care providers, law enforcement investigators, and criminal prosecutors under a single directorate,” said Col. Kelly Webster, deputy director of the Army’s People First Task Force. “Fusion will synchronize, and in some cases co-locate, these support services, either physically or virtually. It will be easier for victims to get the help they need and empower them to navigate what can be an emotional and complex process, starting from when they make an initial report through case resolution and long term care and recovery.”

The physical centers will operate outside of victims’ chains of command, in order to separate conflicts of interest.

The Army will pilot the program at six bases: Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Irwin in California, Fort Riley in Kansas and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

“These pilot locations were selected to represent a broad range of sizes and types of Army installations,” Webster said. “We also considered the findings from the RAND Corporation’s analysis of sexual assault and sexual harassment risk across the Army, as well taking into account that these installations had available resources to support a pilot at each site.”

The Army reserve will pilot a virtual Fusion Directorate under the 99th Readiness Division in New Jersey and the National Guard is in the process of developing its own program based around state needs.

The pilots will run into the spring of 2022, and then be assessed by leadership.

Soldiers will still have the previous options of going to a commander or reporting assaults to a civilian agency. The Army feels that Fusion will be another asset for soldiers to interact with sexual assault and harassment response and prevention staff in one location.

After high profile murders and assaults of soldiers, the Army is overhauling its sexual harassment and assault response and prevention program.

“It’s basically going back to square one, starting with mission analysis of what are the core requirements of a program and building options in ways that we can improve the program moving forward,” James Helis, director of the Army Resilience Directorate, said in April.

The Army said the Fusion project is only one of many changes it has planned in the years to come. It was a recommendation from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee. However, that review had 70 recommendations the service is working on.

Meanwhile, Congress is in the midst of changing how sexual assault and other crimes are handled in the military. The Senate version of the 2022 defense authorization bill proposes creating an independent prosecutor to handle nonmilitary crimes.

The Defense Department is also in the process of implementing recommendations from its independent review of sexual assault in the military.

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