New DOD investigative unit to focus on sexual assault-related reprisals
WASHINGTON — A new unit in the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General will focus solely on complaints of retaliation against military members who report sexual assault, highlighting a commitment to end the double victimization of victims.
In addition, this newly created team of seven investigators and a supervisor will directly handle sexual assault reprisal cases from across the services, rather than overseeing investigations at the branch level, said Nilgun Tolek, director of whistleblower reprisal investigations at the DOD OIG.
The steps followed recommendations made in February by a panel that reviewed military judicial proceedings and found a severe lack of hard data on the frequency of retaliation for reporting sexual assault and inconsistent policies on how those cases are reported and monitored.
It also comes after some milestones. In April, a DOD IG investigation substantiated its first case of whistleblower reprisal for reporting sexual assault, and Tolek says the number of those filing IG complaints for this kind of retaliation have increased, from about five a year to 40 cases since fiscal year 2016 began in October.
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