Office of Special Trial Counsel Seeking To End Sexual Assault in Army
Law and order are important components of American society, and yet, the unfortunate irony is that those protecting these institutions with their lives are the ones who find it harder to seek justice. Issues such as violence, retaliation, and sexual abuse and violence are never to be taken lightly. They are also unfortunate patterns that can present themselves within the culture of the U.S. Army. As terrible as this is, thankfully, something is being done about it. Many things, in fact, but the Office of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC) is aiming to provide a dedicated force and resource for such incidents while also improving the very culture which Soldiers are a part of while serving.
What Is the Office of Special Trial Counsel?
Until recently, there was no Office of Special Trial Counsel for Soldiers; however, this is changing in 2023. The goal of the U.S. Army is to have more than 150 civilian and military personnel specializing in litigation as the staff of the OSTC by December 2023, when it’s aiming to become fully operational.
Congress confirms the Army’s first Lead Special Trial Counsel in an effort to improve legal proceedings involving serious crimes. Such crimes that would involve the OSTC include sexual assault, rape, rape of a child, child pornography/wrongful broadcast, murder, manslaughter, various other acts of sexual misconduct, domestic violence, kidnapping, stalking, and retaliation.
“We are restructuring the way the Army prosecutes perpetrators of covered offenses such as murder, rape, and sexual assaults. As Army’s Lead Special Trial Counsel, Col. Wells is the experienced leader the Army needs to lead the Office of Special Trial Counsel and ensure its independent oversight of the Army’s most complex cases,” said Christine E. Wormuth, Secretary of the Army.
In the end, the goal of the OSTC is to provide more resources while helping change the culture within the Army regarding such crimes. The sad truth is that criminal activity, perhaps especially involving sexual assault, is prevalent for those serving.
Sexual Assault Is a Growing Problem in the U.S. Army
Reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military increased by 13% in the fiscal year 2022, following a period in which there was a 25.6% increase in the previous fiscal year.
This goes with the trends seen in other branches in which sexual assault is on the rise and follows the pattern of data supported by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) over the last several years.
“We have heard loud and clear from our victims that the conditions in the force are unacceptable right now. That is why we are making unprecedented resource investments to get after this problem,” said a Defense Department official on the matter.
Many factors are contributing to the growing issue of sexual assault in all branches of the military. Ultimately, these are cultural failures, including a lack of accountability, support, and resources for survivors.
New policies and initiatives are being implemented, including the Office of Special Trial Counsel, which is coming as part of the initiatives in the National Defense Authorization Act 2022. But more can be done, including harsher punishments and better communication.
The Office of Special Trial Counsel Is a Step in the Right Direction
Col. Warren L. Wells will lead the OSTC after being nominated by the Secretary of the Army and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Under the leadership of Wells and the new policies in place, it’s encouraging to see action taking place. But this should only be the beginning.
Going far beyond the Army, every branch of the military has work to do. Instilling a culture that encourages reporting and discourages such acts of violence means continuing this conversation and putting in more processes for improvement. The Office of Special Trial Counsel is a great start, but there is still a long way to go.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. Photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa Day 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs