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Sexual assault prevention officer: Every case is different, complex

The Navy captain in charge of preventing and responding to sexual assault incidents within Fleet Force Command recently offered some insight into the kinds of cases he often sees. Referring to claims brought in the last few years, Navy Captain Chuck Marks said that sexual assault involving unknown assailants is uncommon, as are situations involving officers who have allegedly assaulted lower-ranking sailors.

Rather, according to Marks, most of the time, the accused and the accuser have some kind of inappropriate workplace relationship and are first-term sailors. Marks also noted that alcohol is a factor in many cases. He went on to illustrate a situation in which alcohol is introduced and one party -- the alleged offender -- wrongly perceives that sexual contact is wanted when it really isn't.

Marks' general assessment of military sexual assault cases is that no two cases are the same, and all cases are complex. As he put it, "When you talk to our prosecution team in Norfolk, they will tell you that sorting through a murder case is much simpler than a sexual assault case."

The categorization of military sex crimes was changed in June 2012. Now the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) places sex crime allegations into five categories. Two of the categories include "contact crimes," and the other three include "penetration crimes." Marks pointed out that the types of contact offenses covered by the code would be misdemeanor offenses in most states, but according to the Justice Department's defenition, contact crimes are regarded as felony sexual assault.

With all of that said, any military member facing a court-martial will need a strong defense to achieve the best possible outcome. You can learn more about courts-martial and criminal investigations at our military law overview.

Source:, "More Military Sex Assault Reports a Positive Sign?" Hugh Lessig, July 28, 2014

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