Pentagon needs help to 'CATCH' serial sex offenders

Abbie Bennett
August 05, 2019 - 4:00 pm
SexualAssaultSurvivor

Official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs.

The Pentagon is providing a new, confidential way for survivors of sexual assault to help identify serial sex offenders.

The Department of Defense announced the launch of the "Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH)" program Monday.

The program provides a confidential way for service members and their adult dependents who are survivors of sexual assault but chose to file restricted reports to provide information about their incident or alleged attacker to military investigators to help identify serial sex offenders.

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"We are constantly looking for new ways to empower victims to participate in the military justice process through our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs," said Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency. "We encourage greater reporting to connect victims with the care they need and as a way to hold offenders appropriately accountable."

The launch of CATCH comes months after a survey showed that military sexual assaults had risen to more than 20,000 in 2018 and was at the highest in at least five years. 

The CATCH program is intended to help the department gather allegations about repeat offenders and provide survivors an additional way to participate in the military justice system, DoD said in a news release about the program. 

"Victims of sexual assault deserve our best support and resources," said Nate Galbreath, acting director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). "We're excited for the launch of CATCH, which will provide an opportunity for victims to disclose information about their assailant or assault in a safe and confidential way."

Details survivors provide on the CATCH website (www.sapr.mil/CATCH) will be compared against other reports in CATCH and other law enforcement databases, DoD said. If the information appears to match other allegations, survivors will be notified by DoD individually "by specially-trained CATCH victim points of contact."

Survivors can then decide if they want to convert their restricted reports and participate in the investigation. 

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1 for a VA staff member). Veterans, service members or their families also can text 838255 or go to veteranscrisisline.net.

Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett

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