by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The Department of Defense has reiterated the military's focus on sexual assault prevention and response. On Guam, sexual harassment and assault in the military is an issue of critical concern. There are several sexual assault cases that are currently under investigation.
The Guam National Guard has had four sexual assault cases that were reported to sexual assault response coordinators in the last two years. Spokesperson Captain Ken Ola says any reports are mandated to be registered in the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database and the Army Incident Case Reporting System. "Of the four cases, three were unrestricted reports, and one was restricted," he shared. "In a restricted case a survivor can start off with a restricted report which means communication is very confidential and it's reported to any of our sexual response coordinators."
Once that happens the SARC will assign a victims advocate and it remains confidential. Ola says a restricted case does not trigger an investigative process but the chaplain may get involved.
A survivor can elect though to make it unrestricted. The captain explained, "Now, once it's an unrestricted report the reporting goes to normal channels, chain of command, law enforcement personnel are notified and the investigation process begins."
The DOD has made it a priority to eliminate sexual assault in the armed forces and ensure a safe environment for every service member and DOD civilian. "The sexual assault response coordinators and the victim advocates, they highly encourage survivors to report these incidents because we do want to make sure that all our offenders are held accountable for their actions," Ola explained.
The Guam Police Department recently arrested a soldier for allegedly sexually harassing and inappropriately touching a subordinate. As we reported, Robert N. Castro was arrested for criminal sexual conduct and harassment. That matter is currently under investigation.
The Guard can't make any other comments because of the ongoing investigation and legal process, they do confirm that more than 900 soldiers and airmen have undergone sexual assault prevention and response training in recent months.
Ola says the training has been interactive to encourage all soldiers and airmen to be more active in preventing and reporting sexual assault. Major General Benny Paulino meanwhile says, "The Guam National Guard treats each and every incident of sexual assault reported to us very seriously." He adds, "It is behavior that violates each of our Army and Air Force values. Maintaining good order and discipline is the driving force in our active pursuit of any cases of sexual harassment and assault reported to us."
Paulino says such behavior will be dealt with to the fullest extent.