Posted: 2:26 am ET
We recently received information from an individual who asserted that she was raped and stalked by a supervisory Diplomatic Security agent assigned to one of Diplomatic Security’s eight field locations in the United States. She said that was interviewed by Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) in November 2014. She also said that she provided a Victim Impact Statement to DS/OSI in December 2015. The investigation reportedly concluded in February 2016 with no disciplinary action. She informed us that during one telephonic conversations with a Supervisory Special Agent, she felt pressured to say that “I was pleased with the DoS handling of this case.” She presumed that the call was recorded and refused to say it. She cited another case that was reported around the same time her case was investigated in 2014. She believed that there were multiple police reports for the employee involving different women for similar complaints.
We’ve asked the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for comments about this case, and whether this was reported to the Office of Inspector General. To-date, we have not received an acknowledgment to our inquiry nor a response to our questions despite ample time to do so.
On the subject of sexual assaults, on July 27, 2017, the State Department issued a new Foreign Affairs Manual subchapter 3 FAM 1750 on sexual assaults involving personnel and facilities in the United States. (For sexual assault involving chief-of-mission personnel and facilities outside of the United States see 3 FAM 1710).
3 FAM 1750: “… The Department of State is determined to do all it can to prevent sexual assault from being committed by, or against, its personnel and it is committed to effectively and sensitively responding to personnel who have been sexually assaulted, ensuring that they are treated with care and respect. The policies and procedures in this section define the Department’s goals of effectively preventing and addressing sexual assaults; the actions it will take in response to allegations of sexual assault; and the approach it will use in holding those Department personnel who commit sexual assault accountable for their actions. The language used in this FAM, by necessity, must be technical, comport with and relate to relevant laws, and be administratively sound. That said, the legal terminology, including the term “victim,” contained herein should not eclipse the compassion and urgency that underlie the Department’s commitment to this issue.”
The new regs notes that “sexual assaults that occur within the United States generally fall under the jurisdiction of the State or locality where the assault occurred. Personnel who are victims of sexual assault are not under any obligation to report the assault to the Department.”
This new policy applies to:
(1) All Department employees in the United States;
(2) Persons under personal-services contracts (PSCs) or personal-services agreements (PSAs) in the United States;
(3) Other individuals, such as third-party contractors, student volunteers (interns) and nonemployee fellows, and other personnel (e.g., subcontractors) in the United States who provide services to the State Department when the allegation involves conduct that occurs on duty, or is associated with the individual’s position within the Department; and
(4) Any sexual assault that occurs at any Department facility within the United States.
The victims described above may also reach out to:
(a) Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) via telephone at 571-345-3146 or via email at DS-OSIDutyAgent@state.gov. The DS/DO/OSI duty agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
(b) Employee Consultation Services (ECS) by email: MEDECS@state.gov or by telephone at 703-812-2257; and
(c) A sexual-assault crisis center.
The regs says that “personnel who are victims of sexual assault are not/not under any obligation to report the assault to the Department.” The Department, however, “strongly encourages” anyone who knows or suspects or is aware of a sexual assault covered by 3 FAM 1750 to immediately report allegations of sexual assault to:
(1) DS/DO/OSI via email DS-OSIDutyAgent@state.gov or via phone through the DS Command Center at 571-345-3146; or
(2) S/OCR or via phone at 202-647-9295 (WHY?)
(3) MED personnel will not share protected health information except in accordance with the Notice of Privacy Practices or with the written consent of the patient. Individuals may obtain a copy of the MED Notice of Privacy Practices from the health unit or MED intranet page.
(4) Except as required by law, non-MED personnel will only disclose information about sexual assaults to other Department officers and employees on a need-to-know basis, including to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 3929, and to other Federal and local agencies, in accordance with the Privacy Act.
3 FAM 1750 says that Department personnel detailed to another agency may reach out to the Washington, DC-based Bureau of Medical Services (MED) duty officer at 202-262-9013 or through the Operations Center at 202-647-1512 for medical guidance, and to DS/DO/OSI for law enforcement guidance.
A few thoughts on this:
#1. We understand the caveats on information sharing with medical, and non-medical personnel included in this subchapter but we don’t think this is enough to assuage the privacy concerns of victims.
#2. DOD has restricted (confidential) and unrestricted reporting for victims. That means the adult sexual assault victim can access healthcare, advocacy services, and legal services without triggering notification to command or law enforcement (restricted). Under Unrestricted Reporting, both the command and law enforcement are notified. Even then, fewer than 1 in 5 victims openly reported their sexual assault. 3,678 service members reported the incident to law enforcement, out of a total 20,000 survivors.
#3. S/OCR handles equal employment opportunity issues including sexual harassment, why should sexual assault victims report sexual assault or sexual assault allegations there? 3 FAM 1711.2 defines sexual assault as any type of sexual contact that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.It also says that sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment. Sexual assault is a crime, it cannot be resolved through mediation, grievance, or the EEO processes. Also does anyone know how many people at S/OCR are trained to actually handle sexual assault cases?
The U.S. Marines publication make the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault here (PDF). It defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature. It defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority or when a victim cannot or does not consent. And this one is important, “A current or previous dating relationship by itself or the manner of dress of the person involved with the accused in the sexual conduct at issue shall not constitute consent.”
The U.S. Coast Guard says that the real distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault is sexual harassment’s connection to the victim’s employment and/or work performance, which is why sexual harassment is a civil rights issue. It points out that sexual assault is a crime against another person. However, unlike sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with their employment and/or work performance, it is a criminal assault, of a sexual nature, against another person.
The State Department guidance does not/not make such distinctions.
#4. States all address the crime of sexual assault, with some adding specific categories of victims, defenses, and penalties. See more here: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/criminal-laws/sexual-assault.html.
RAINN also has a search tool for independent sexual assault service providers, including National Sexual Assault Hotline affiliate organizations and other local providers here.
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