Spc. Bentley was very upset when she asked to speak privately with 1st Sgt. Davis. She asked him to close the door, and then related that Spc. Steele had forced her against her will, to have sexual intercourse with him the previous night. 1st Sgt. Davis was a bit surprised by this, since he knew that Bentley and Steele had been dating. He asked her if she was sure this is what had happened. She repeated her story and indicated that she was prepared to swear to the matter. 1st Sgt. Davis reported the matter to his company commander, who was, not surprisingly, quite concerned. The military police conducted the investigation. Spc. Steel insisted that the incident had been consensual on Spc. Bentley"s part. He even pointed to the used condom in the waste basket as evidence. He took and passed a lie detector test. When confronted with this, Spc. Bentley insisted that he was lying. She said she would also take a lie detector test. She did and she failed it. As the story came out, Spc. Bentley was angry at Spc. Steele, because of some unflattering comments he had made about her to other people. She made her charge as an attempt to get even with him. Based on her false accusation and sworn statement, she was given an Article 15.
In this example, the natural inclination would have been to automatically take the word of Spc. Bentley. It also illustrates the difficult nature of sexual assault in that it not infrequently begins with a mutually agreeable relationship. When women decide that they are no longer comfortable with the relationship or that they don't want it to proceed beyond a certain point, they need to have the good sense and the courage to speak up for themselves and say, "Stop, I don't want to go any Further." Men would also be wise to take a moment and ask, "Are you OK with this?"
When your investigation proves to be founded and you are considering disciplinary action, investigate the individual's past. Often they have been in trouble for the same thing before, but those leaders let them off with a slap on the wrist and a mild warning to behave themselves.
Maj. Banks was pending a general officer Article 15 for repeated sexual harassment and assault on an enlisted soldier. On a hunch, Col. Moran, the brigade commander, called the chief of staff at Ft. Lee, where Maj. Banks had come from. He explained that Maj. Banks was in trouble for sexual harassment and assault, and asked if he had any history of this at Ft. Lee. The chief of staff replied that Maj. Banks had been in trouble for an almost identical situation, involving two enlisted women, who worked for him. Because Maj. Banks had a family and was a career officer, the post commander at Ft. Lee had been reluctant to take action. He said that he didn't want to ruin Maj. Bank's career, so he gave him a verbal warning, tore up the Article 15, and had him reassigned. The chief of staff told Col Moral that he had warned the post commander at the time, that the problem was going to happen again.
Leaders have a responsibility to soldiers to insure that those in authority are not abusing that authority. Shifting a problem to another organization may be tempting, but it doesn't solve the problem. Investigate reports of intimidation and sexual harassment. Take action as appropriate, whether that be UCMJ, documented counseling, or additional training. Keep a record of what you have done in the event that the behavior happens again. You control the leadership climate on your team by setting the standards and enforcing them when necessary
Note: This is an extract from Women on Your Team. Both examples are based on actual leader experience. Only the names have been changed.