Sexual Assault Prevention
Norton, Mass. – On Dec. 21-22, 2015, the Massachusetts National Guard, in partnership with the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, conducted a conference entitled "Responding to Sexual Assaults: Strengthening the Ties Between the National Guard, Law Enforcement and Colleges.”
The purpose of the event was to synchronize efforts of military, college and municipal entities to stem instances of sexual assault as well as formalize a partnership between the Massachusetts National Guard and the Bristol County Sheriff's Office during investigations. Approximately 60 people attended the conference at Wheaton College in Norton.
More than 20 agencies, including a dozen New England colleges, attended the conference. Attendees included law enforcement personnel, college administrators, sexual assault survivors, victim advocates and state officials. Sgt. 1st Class Rose
Selin, a victim advocate coordinator for the Massachusetts National Guard, explained to the eclectic audience that, "Your role is critical." Selin believes that cooperative partnership between the military and law enforcement agencies is necessary to support a change in sexual assault culture.
Selin said Department of Defense policy favors community partnership. “We have the same goal to eradicate, or at least reduce, sexual assault, so we should do this together.”
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, addressed the overlap in interests of the Massachusetts National Guard and college administrators to detect and deter sexual assaults. "We [both] have tremendous contact with young Americans between the ages of 18 and about 30." Furthermore, Rice explained that most of the 9,000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard exist in a "gray area" of legal authority; straddling military jurisdiction and civilian jurisdiction.
Additionally, approximately 30% of the members of the Massachusetts National Guard are enrolled in college or university, according to Selin.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson spoke at the conference. "We, in law enforcement and the military, can create change . . . I am a big believer in the power of partnerships," said Hodgson. He hopes that the Massachusetts National Guard and the law enforcement community will share resources to "give comfort and credibility to victims [of sexual assaults”].
Rice and Hodgson signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the afternoon of the first day of the conference. The first-of-its-kind agreement creates a special victim's unit to assist victims of sexual assault that take place on college campuses and involve members of the National Guard. As recorded in the text of the Memorandum of Agreement: "The United States Army Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations will only investigate those crimes that occur when either the victim, the perpetrator, or both are serving on Active Duty with the Army or the Air Force. When in state status, the National Guard must rely on civilian law enforcement to investigate sexual assault allegations."
Upon signing the document, Rice told Hodgson and the audience, "We can help each other. It's a win-win . . . This agreement will delve into that gray area."
This week's conference is the second iteration of a coordinated effort between the Massachusetts National Guard and the Bristol County Sheriff's Office. In September, a three-day-long precursor conference took place at the Bristol County Sheriff's office. In the months that followed, Lt. Col. Anthony Sciaraffa, a Judge Advocate for the Massachusetts National Guard, refined the agenda and expanded the invitation list. The final agenda reflects the complicated nature of sexual assault crimes, especially on college campuses or in the military ranks.
"Sexual assault is a very unique crime because it deals with neurobiological trauma," said Sciaraffa. "We will offer a combination of video and lecture to build your understanding of sexual assault crimes and victims."
Topics covered included elements of a successful sex crime prosecution, comprehending the scope of the problem, victim interview techniques, report writing, and a police panel on evidence collection. A judge, a clerk-magistrate, several attorneys and seasoned detectives were among the many presenters.
"All the presentations have been great," said Officer Skip Knox of the Wheaton College Police Department. "I wish we had more conferences like this."
Karyn Evlog, a sexual assault nurse for the Massachusetts Department of Health, said the conference taught her the right questions to ask a sexual assault survivor to facilitate a future investigation of the crime.
Due to the strong turn-out and enthusiasm at this event, the seeds seem sown for another Massachusetts National Guard conference on preventing sexual assault. “The ultimate goal is community partnership and collaboration,” said Selin.
Command Sergeant Major
Carlos Ramos Rivera
State Command Sergeant Major