Gender, relationships, how training has changed, should civilians adjudicate military cases, creating safe spaces for learning & development, and much more is discussed with 3 retired military professionals who were in charge of addressing sexual assault in their roles in the US Military.
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Mike Domitrz: Welcome to the Respect Podcast. I’m your host, Mike Domitrz from mikespeaks.com, where we help organizations of all sizes, educational institutions, and the US military create a culture of respect, and respect is exactly what we discuss on this show, so let’s get started.
Mike Domitrz: Hi. This is Mike here, and I’ve got a little special notice for this episode because it’s very unique in that this episode is over twice the length of a normal episode, so I want to give you a heads-up. You might listen to this one in two parts. Normally, our show runs right around the 30-minute mark. This one’s going to run you right around an hour 15, an hour 20, so you could break it into three. You could listen to it at once.
Mike Domitrz: Here’s why I did not break it up. It is such a unique conversation between these three professionals from the US military, discussing sexual violence, respect, training, program, gender. There’s so much there that I didn’t want to cut it. I didn’t feel it worked well. I thought it was really great for those who want to be able to listen to this all the way through as it naturally occurred, so here’s the episode for you.
Mike Domitrz: Welcome to this episode of the Respect Podcast. We’ve got a really exciting lineup here, and I said, “Lineup,” because this is not a one-on-one interview. This is three retired individuals from the US military who worked specifically in addressing sexual violence within the US military. Now, they’re coming from different services, different branches, so we’re going to hear a variety of viewpoints and discussion points here.
Mike Domitrz: I’m going to get right into this because, first, we have Chuck, who is known as Captain Charles Marks in his military career, but we’ve been able to work with each other and, amongst his friends and his peers, he goes by Chuck, so we’re going to introduce Chuck in a moment. We also have Mike Kontio with us. He worked with Special Forces, Fort Bragg, dealing with the sexual violence, SHARP program, and then with him is Guy Allsup, also from Fort Bragg, but separate areas. We’ll let them explain how that all worked.
Mike Domitrz: All working with sexual violence, Chuck, we’ll start with you. Can you give everybody just a quick background on your work in this area for the military?
Chuck Marks: Yeah. Hi. This is Chuck Marks. My background is I’m a career Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy, which means I’m a ship driver by trade. I’ve had a command a few times and, for the last five years, I served as the fleet sexual assault prevention response officer where I was in charge of implementing all the programs and all our long-range plan for the Navy on countering sexual violence.
Mike Domitrz: Awesome. Thank you.
Mike Domitrz: Mike, can you explain your role?
Mike Kontio: Yeah. Thank you for having me on this afternoon, Mike. I have been in the organization called Joint Special Operations Command for the last 16 years. The last five years, I’ve been in charge of a program, the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Response Prevention program. As of late, we saw ourselves more as a climate design versus a SHARP program, focusing on primary prevention.
Mike Domitrz: All right. Thanks, Mike, and, Guy?
Guy Allsup: Hey, Mike, also, thanks for having me on the show. I work with the 18th Airborne Corps specifically as the SHARP program manager. I actually got to work some with you and I got to work some with Mike, which was awesome. I saw my role in SHARP as how did I enable training for our victim advocates or our SARCs, or sexual assault response coordinators, how did I help them understand facilitation through throughout training and then how did I also help get them the resources and tools they needed, because I had … I was sitting higher in the sky from my seat, so I was able to push resources to people who needed it.
Mike Domitrz: All right. Thank you very much. Now, our listeners might be wondering, “Hey, Mike, that sounds like you have three men representing all the services. it doesn’t really sound … It sounds diverse in their roles and what they did. Why isn’t there more of a gender diversity, maybe an ethnic, cultural diversity?” and it’s a great question and one we want to address especially in the Respect Podcast.
Mike Domitrz: Here’s the situation. In order for me to bring three people on and to be able to get on and have a full conversation, I intentionally sought out retired individuals who I knew could speak openly, and you might be wondering, “Why retired?” Because if these three were not retired, they would need to get full permission from public affairs in a representative role of the US military to be able to have this conversation, and that’s a lot more red tape potentially and can impact how people are able to talk openly, so what I did is I turned to clients who had recently retired, and that’s why we have the group we have.
Mike Domitrz: I’m very aware of the lack of diversity in that area, and I think it’s important we address that because, normally, we would definitely be intentional about making sure there was more diversity as far as ethnicity, culture, gender, but, in this case, this was best-case scenario, and we have three amazing people on, so let’s dive right into this, because you gentlemen know this is a big … That’s a big part of everything we’re discussing is having diversity in these conversations and having representation and everybody at the table talking about it.
Mike Domitrz: What I’d like to do on this episode is talk about the perceptions of the military versus reality, how we got to where we are today. Where are we today, and where do you see us going forward? What do you three think are the most difficult stereotypes that the military is facing, and that could be true or could be false? If it’s okay, we’ll start with you, Mike.
Mike Kontio: I’ll start with, Mike, that I believe that currently, from a military perspective and from my lens, I’ll speak from my optic, is that I think it’s the best it’s ever been, but I will say that I don’t think it’s good enough yet, meaning, there’s still more work to be done in how we look at the problem and how we address it.
Mike Kontio: For example, I think that, by and large, I question whether we are committed to ending sexual assault, and I ask this question to leaders or officers and say, “Are you committed or are you interested?” because it’s two different things. If we’re committed, we work hard. If we’re interested, the work is hard, and I’ll ask leaders often, “Do you believe that we can end sexual assault?” and I believe with every fiber in my body that we can if we’re committed, now, recognizing what it will take to get there and that the pronoun is intentionally said, “We,” collectively.
Mike Domitrz: What do you think of the stereotypes that are out there in regards to that? Do you think people don’t believe the military is committed?
Chuck Marks: Some of the things that we have started to address in our program is we really look at this hard at the beginning, and I think the comments that Mike made are spot-on, but to build off of that, we started from this place where there was this perception that all assaults are identical, meaning, all assaults are the worst case, all assaults are rape, and when we really start to analyze the types of assaults we experience in the military, we find that there’s a continuum of things from unwanted touching and kissing all the way to the more [inaudible 00:07:01] types of assaults. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to countering all of those various types of assaults.
Chuck Marks: I think the second thing is is that the military is unique with a problem that is far worse than that of society, and that’s something that’s been a running narrative in the press. When we actually go in and analyze the incidents in the military and compare them to society, we find that the military assault rates are far lower than that of society despite the fact that we’re 85% male, and that means that, potentially, the risk is a lot higher.
Chuck Marks: We know that our assault numbers are significantly lower, but it does not mean we’re going to rest because we have to really go after this problem because it erodes really how our small teams fight and operate because it undermines across these small teams, because the majority of assaults we’re experiencing in the military are soldier-on-soldier, airman-on-airman, sailor-on-sailor, marine-on-marine. It’s peer-on-peer types of assaults.
Mike Domitrz: Let’s pause there. What about the person who says, “Well, your numbers show that the military is lower than society, but that’s because people in the military are more afraid than people in society to come forward due to retribution, retaliation, the old-boys’-club mentality of the military?” No, I’m not saying, hey, that’s true. Obviously, I work with all of you, and I know how the systems are built to try to combat that, but how do you respond to that?
Mike Kontio: Very quickly I would say that we assess pretty accurately the assault rates in the military, and that’s done through biannual surveys, and we know that the accuracy of those surveys is incredibly high, and I would tell you that in open US society there’s nothing comparable to it, and I also know that, when we first started this journey five years ago in great earnest and detail, we were getting about one out of 11 to one out of 12 sailors in the face of the Navy coming forward to report their assaults.
Mike Kontio: We know that, today, we’re getting one out of three coming forward to report their assaults, so there’s been almost a five-fold improvement in reporting rates when it comes to reporting the assaults, so we have a pretty confident … high confidence level in the number of assaults that are occurring in the military, both reported and unreported.
Mike Domitrz: Guy, we’ll turn to you. What do you think? Do you think there are any perceptions out there that are impacting how people view the military and how much reality there is to those perceptions?
Guy Allsup: If I back up for just a second, to your first question, I think when we went and looked at training and we stopped saying, “Okay, I think everyone’s going to be guilty,” because that’s a perception that plays a role in this conversation, so then I show up to training and I sit down and I automatically am defensive because I’m waiting for you to tell me that I’m a guilty person.
Guy Allsup: I think when we started having people show up to training and we said, “Hey, here are ways that you can have a great and healthy relationship. Here are ways that you can have a healthy work environment,” to “What if we started discussing ways that we can enable these relationships, these work environments?” I think we started shifting the training around, and I think that started changing a lot of the perceptions.
Guy Allsup: I would tell you, numerous times, when we brought in yourself or we did training, interactive trainings where we had audiences of maybe up to 500 people, people loved it. People loved it because the conversation wasn’t, “Hey, we think you’re guilty, and here’s what the punishment for the crime is going to be.” It’s going to be, “Hey, here are things that you can concretely do to have a better daily working relationship, working life,” right?
Mike Domitrz: Let’s pause there. Let’s pause there because you’re describing something that I’m very passionate about, as you’re aware, which is going to a how-to approach versus a what-not-to-do approach, and I think that’s what you’re referring to. For years, this was a not-to approach not just in the military, in universities. It was, “Don’t rape,” and, “No means no,” but there was no pro-activeness of, “Well, are you asking them in the first place so they can say no?” There was no skill building for that to take place.
Mike Domitrz: Now, I’m talking with three people that are very progressive in this field, very much working to make a cultural shift. Do you feel that that’s true, you’re retired now, that that’s true across the services? I have seen inconsistency at times in this approach of whether people are willing to have the how-to versus, “Nope, we’re just going to say not to. That’s all we need to do to cover our bases.” What do you hear out there for all three of you?
Guy Allsup: I would say, initially, I think it really comes back to your commanders, right? If commanders have embraced this idea, and I think Mike can talk a little bit about this better than I can because he went through this whole climate design and emotional intelligence push, but if you can get commanders to have very honest conversations where it’s no longer a zero-fault system and we can say, “Hey, what does it mean if I really harass someone? What does it mean if I really assault someone? Okay, what does it mean if I’m trying to have a,” as you used to phrase it, I think you still do, “a mutually respectful relationship? Whether that’s personal, whether that’s business, what does that really mean?” and then we can have an open conversation.
Guy Allsup: I think the commanders that embrace that honest and open dialogue, I think, absolutely, I think they are moving forward beautifully.
Chuck Marks: I would add to that in this respect here that the commander is the place to start, and if the commander or the local commanding officer is not on board, you’re done with that unit. That unit is not going to make meaningful progress until the next commander comes in, but then I think there’s another layer of people you have to get to advocate, and that’s our frontline supervisors and, in the case of the Navy, it really comes down to our E5, mid-grade enlisted, our non-commissioned officers.
Mike Domitrz: Chuck, you mentioned E5. Now, a lot of our listeners do not have military experience, so what is that typically? Is there an age range that would typically be an E5, just so people are getting a picture of what you’re discussing?
Chuck Marks: Yeah. You’ve got to remember that the majority of the military population is pretty young. We have some types of units that are with more mature personnel, that are older, but when you think about … If you go to a ship, the average age on the ship is between 19 and a half to 20 and a half years of age, so the folks that are just slightly older than those 18 to 20-year-olds are the folks that are really in that frontline leadership position.
Chuck Marks: We also have junior officers who are in the leadership positions above them who are about the same age. They’re young, recent college graduates, so 23 to 25 years old, and so what’s interesting is if you can create the environment, if the commanding officer can create the environment where the command or the unit is on board conceptually, then you need that next, that lower level of leadership to be on board because there are about five or six layers removed, those COs, those commanding officers from those frontline leaders, and those frontline leaders can create a microclimate within the larger command climate that may run counter to the command climate, and it really comes down to how we treat each other. Every day. we have to treat each other with respect. We can’t rely on just the go-no-go of the law, breaking the law, breaking the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We need a far higher standard of conduct for us to counter things like sexual assaults and other disruptive behaviors.
Mike Domitrz: Mike, it looked like you were going to jump in there in regards to Chuck’s comments?
Mike Kontio: What I’ll add is I do believe it starts at the leadership level. We could even unpack that a little bit and say the ability that we all have for leaders or leadership influences … is impacted or in … is far greater than I think what we have, but leaders in my opinion, or commanders, are responsible for establishing the values in the organization, but I think the investment needs to start at those who are the face of the program, those that are charged to lead it.
Mike Kontio: We have to build trust both up and down, so response is something that we can’t fail in. Credibility can be lost in a moment if you’re charged to provide advocacy service for someone and it doesn’t work out or when you try to use process as a means to assist those that seek your advocacy services. You also have to be able to build credibility with your leaders, how to communicate what’s required, how to influence or impact the strategic vision and goals to a commander. You have to have somebody that can articulate that.
Mike Domitrz: If the three of you were to estimate based on what you’ve seen, what percentage do you think of leadership is on board of committed versus interested? I thought that was a brilliant statement you made earlier, Mike. There’s a big difference. We know there’s a few out there that are neither, that literally say, “Go do check the box. Let’s get this things over with,” and I’m in no way saying there’s a lot, but we’ve run into them, and that’s going to be true in any organization. Whether you’re the military, a university or a large corporation, you’re going to have a few that’d just say, the outliers that go, “I don’t care about that. I’m here to do this.”
Mike Domitrz: When people hear the military, I think they, a lot of times, think that’s the majority, that mindset of, “We’re just here to take out the enemy, and anything else is a distraction.” I hear people say that, like, “What do you do when you talk to the military about this?” That’s not what they should be thinking about. How do you respond to that?
Mike Kontio: When I attend conferences or talk with organizations outside of the military or the federal government, I’m finding that we are farther along than our civilian counterparts, and that’s encouraging, and I just want to acknowledge that.
Mike Kontio: I also think it’s fair to understand that, although leaders or commanders are responsible to know everything and be everywhere all the time, that it’s not possible. When you can convince a commander or a leader that by being committed to ending sexual assault, trust in the organization, credibility [inaudible 00:17:32] a values-based organization, meaning, what does it mean to be a member of this organization?
Mike Kontio: By and large, in my experience, I’ve seen leaders from my command all being supportive of the outcome. Being committed I think is debatable, but that’s not to say that their response where they just … Maybe they just don’t understand the difference between the two.
Chuck Marks: Mike, this is Chuck. Where I [inaudible 00:17:59] uniform, I wouldn’t give you these numbers, but my perspective from the start of this journey, and you’ve been at some of those workshops on the waterfront with me when we confronted very resistive senior officers in various organizations and mid-grade and junior folks, but I would tell you that, at the beginning, we had probably one out of 10 of our leaders that totally just understood that we needed to do this. It made sense. It just made sense to them because they were exemplary leaders and they understood that it was eroding the trust in their organization, and I would say, over the five years that I was in my job, I saw that go from one out of 10 leaders to probably something that looks more like seven or eight out of 10 leaders.
Chuck Marks: There’s been a true culture change, at least from my perspective in the Navy, that as we evolve our message away from the don’t-rape and the men-are-bad messaging at the front-end and, “Don’t do this and just say no,” to an organization that’s focused on what we’re for versus what we’re against, and we’re investing in the culture surrounding how we treat each other every day, we’ve made progressively more and more progress about getting people on board.
Chuck Marks: To be fair to many of the folks that are on board now that weren’t before, some of them it took some education and raising awareness, and some folks you sort of had to shock them into action and activity, and in other cases, they looked around and said, “Well, everyone else I’d doing this and they’re getting rewarded for it, so, therefore, must I.”
Chuck Marks: I think all those all elements of culture change are part of this journey, but I am optimistic that the military and the Navy in particular from my perspective is at a place where the majority of the leaders are on board now. We still have folks that come along in isolated cases and, in some cases in the Navy, you’ve probably seen it in the papers, we’ve removed them from command, and that is more … You’re going to see more folks removed from command for things like climate and culture today than you ever had in the past.
Mike Domitrz: I love what you said there because it’s so true, and we look back at five years ago in the battles people would want to have with me in the room, which was great because we got to use those as teaching moments. That was never bad for people would be like, “What do you mean?” somebody going, “What? What?”
Mike Domitrz: Now, they stand out on an island when they do that. Now, if you’re the one going, “What? Are you crazy?” you are the one in 10, and the nine in 10 in the room are looking at you, going, “Seriously? You actually still think that way nowadays?” These leaders are looking at the one, going, “Buddy, are you realizing you’re in the Navy and this, your values, and you’re not representing our values?” There has been a major shift, and some people think, “Oh, then we’ve gotten to where we needed to get.”
Mike Domitrz: No, because now the difference is those nine are starving for more information, more skills to help us have the transformation that needs to happen on the society. Why? At least that’s what I see when I’m there. They’re like, “Mike, what about this? What about that?” They’re excited to have the conversation and they’re utilizing that information and put it in place.
Mike Domitrz: Now, I know that’s Navy-wise. I’m going to turn to Mike and Guy. Did you see the same thing? Do you see more getting excited about having the skills and wanting more and more?
Guy Allsup: I would say yes, and then one of the things I would say is, talking about leadership, so the leadership at a minimum just says, “We support the sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention program. Cool.” The next stage that people who I know are committed are my SARCs and my victim advocates, my trainers that go out there and need that energy to go into an audience. Whether I bring in professional people, like we brought in Date Safe, we brought you in, Mike, or whether I actually take people in uniform and I give them the tools to facilitate a class to teach those values, to teach the how-to versus the don’t-don’t-don’t, then that energizes an organization, right? Commanders are super busy people. I know they are, and if I can support them though with the people who have the right tools, that’s how you affect the whole culture.
Guy Allsup: I would say, I think, the Army overall, Army specific, I think it is moving forward, but I think what’s interesting is a lot of the people who get it the most are those 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds coming in, which is really interesting.
Guy Allsup: What I oftentimes saw when we would have a large open discussion or have a conversation, some of the people who had been in uniform 20, 25, 30 years, maybe it was because they were so used to always being told, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” that they were having a hard time shifting and, all of a sudden, having that open dialogue, that conversation.
Mike Domitrz: It requires a potential vulnerability in conversation, right? The person who’s been in 25 years sitting there going, “I’m not letting the 18-year-old know I screwed up. You know, that could hurt my authority and my credibility,” so you do get an awkwardness that can occur. I think you brought up something really important is, when the leadership shows, like we heard earlier from Mike, committed.
Mike Domitrz: I was recently at an installation, and the skipper was at both my presentations for the full presentation. Now, some of you might be going, “Why would that be a surprise?” Let me just be clear. If I’m at a university, it is going to be once or twice a year the president, chancellor, provost of the university will show up at my program, and it doesn’t mean this program doesn’t … the school doesn’t care. They care deeply. That’s why they bring me in. That’s why they want it right away at the beginning of the year, but for the top person to show up and say, “This means so much to me. I’m going to be in the room. I’m going to speak out at the end,” is rare in the university world.
Mike Domitrz: Now, in the military world, it’s not rare, but it’s still not the common thing that happens that they come for the full program. They might come in and introduced because they do want to show support, but their schedule says they can’t stay, but now I’m starting to see more and more that are staying and saying, “It’s important that the young group in here sees me in the room with them and as passionate about this as they need to be,” and that’s leadership. That means you’re showing up and saying, “Your time on this topic is as important as my time on this topic.”
Mike Kontio: Hey, Mike. I’d like to go backwards just for a quick second to go forward to when you talked about when you started this conversation and acknowledging the four of us looked like the majority, and I will say that, in my environment in special operations, when you sit in a room of leaders or commanders, most or the majority of those individuals look like me, and so there was a point where I think, for me, acknowledging one that when I owned this program that I was charged to lead, I want to acknowledge that I at some point either contributed, enabled or allowed certain behaviors that I now stand against and recognizing that I am in this with you.
Mike Kontio: The second piece was also acknowledging in the space that more people that look like me need to be an ambassador and we need to be giving a voice to those who don’t have a voice in that space. Now, my position was a little unique where I was in charge of the program from the ground up. We didn’t have anything, so I had to do a program management as well as everything else, the training, and I will tell you that our organization still does a three-hour annual training, which is impressive.
Mike Kontio: Having said that, you’re always going to hear those conversations before the training starts, and I cringe when I say the word “training” because we’re conditioned to think of sit-and-get or lecture-style in this type of training, but there’s always an individual that will say, “Is this really going to take three hours?” and to be able to challenge that person-
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Mike Kontio: Is this really going to take three hours? To be able to challenge that person in the space, once you create a safe and trusting environment and ask, what do we mean when we say does this really take three hours? If I am a colleague, a subordinate, or a friend, would I feel comfortable coming to you with that comment you just made? Because what you really just said was, “It’s not important.” Being in that space for just three hours, you can tell that people are exhausted because we just haven’t been conditioned to know how to have, as you said, these vulnerable conversations.
Mike Kontio: We’re really having to start at the ground level and teaching emotional intelligence. I think there is a way moving forward, and I know I’m getting off a little bit here as … We need to put the broccoli on the pizza. We need to feed people the nutrients without them knowing what they’re getting, and we need to start teaching emotional intelligence from the moment they come into the army or military.
Mike Domitrz: Mike, you’re bringing something really important there which we addressed when we started the show. Which is, while we do not have a diverse group, this is a common numbers situation in the US military. Right, four guys out of maybe five people. That would not be uncommon depending on what service. It does really depend on the service, what division or unit you’re working with. But, what’s interesting here is that, for those listening, to just give a quick explanation, command units have what’s called sexual assault response coordinators. That’s the person in charge of handling all the aspects of sexual violence. It could be training. It could be supporting survivors. Now they have support people and victim advocates who help work with the victims. Then above that, they have the Saper office that helps support them and it keeps going. I’m just giving you the short version.
Mike Domitrz: What’s interesting though, is that if you travel the world working with the military, you’ll find a highly disproportionate number of those who identify as women as SARKS, compared to the number of women in the US military, which also presents a challenge. Because now, 85% of the room walks in identifies as male, and the person in charge of having this conversation is in the minority. They are walking as a woman and they go, “Well, of course, you are saying this. You’re a woman.” There is still a little bit of that, that exists in our society. Maybe more than a little bit that exists. How do you think that plays a role here?
Mike Kontio: Let me just back up just before, and I’ll give the floor to Chuck and Guy. I will say, significantly, from 2013 to now, I see more men in these roles. I think that’s a good thing not only from the point that you’re conveying, but also I think there’s a larger topic at works as a … I think men have wanted a voice in this topic for a long time and this platform gives the opportunity to have the conversation and express their views, or emotions, or anything that comes along with these subjects [inaudible 00:29:14].
Guy Allsup: I think one of the things I had to learn … I said I came from not a lot of experience. I was several ranks below what I was supposed to be for the job I took, which meant I was allowed to ask a lot of questions and that was okay for me. That actually set me up for success. Because, part of I think what you’re hitting at is, what is our privilege? Well my position was privilege. It had a lot of resources with it, right? So then part of my job and my privilege was to use those resources to enable the people who are out there doing the ground level work, right?
Guy Allsup: So then part of that was, if they’re walking into a room and they’ve already acknowledged their privilege, if the room is 85% male and I’m sending a female trainer, right, and she’s already acknowledged her privilege as the trainer, but the conversation is question based and its about mutual respect, and its about treating each other with dignity, which creates a healthy environment, whether it’s a work environment, whether it’s a relationship, friendship, it doesn’t matter, social environment. Then we can start to pull a lot of those dynamics out of the way.
Guy Allsup: I think what I saw in about a year span was as we got better training for the trainers, as we came in and started helping people understand emotional intelligence, as we started helping people understand how to create, as Mike said, a safe environment where people knew there was trust in the room and they weren’t going to be attacked for their opinions, their view points, their experiences. Then that starts to take a away this sort of this anxiety, the nerves, the need to be defensive and I think that’s key. I think that’s critical. Whether we’re talking in the military or whether we’re talking out of the military, I think if we can walk in a room and say, “Hey, I acknowledge I’m the trainer. I don’t know that I have all the answers so I just want to have a discussion …”
Chuck Marks: If I could add to that because I think that’s critical, both what Mike and Guy just said and building off of both of their comments. We shifted also the focus of our training. If you think about the traditional training, the sit in the seat, the lecture delivered training, and you think about the focus areas and if you think about Maslow’s hierarchy, we started out with this don’t do stuff which is pain avoidance, avoid getting in trouble, staying out of trouble kind of training, and then I think the place where we’re now when we start talking about things like emotional intelligence, culture change, how we treat each other, we’re investing in the individual which is in the middle of that hierarchy.
Chuck Marks: That I think is the key of where the military is going for the future. We’re investing in the individual, in the individual’s accountability and giving the individual the skills they need to take on the difficult issues. The end result is we’re going to improve the overall cultural climate. In the military we excel at the avoid pain kind of training at the low end and we excel at the very high end team building kind of training. The place where we’re investing is in that middle place where you invest in that individual long term and it pays off for the entire organization for the career of that individual.
Mike Kontio: Hey, Mike, I know you’ve been in this field a long time and I really want to acknowledge one, I came to this understanding probably two or three years ago when I attended a conference, Industrial Organizational Psychologist Conference. It was a topic on male victimization. In that break-out group, 95% of the individuals of the gender were females. What occurred to me at that moment was it was one gender that has carried this topic on their backs for a long, long time. I was, I don’t know if embarrassed is the right word, but I was embarrassed that there was a specific gender that was there in attendance to support and acknowledge and talk about something and that was male victimization. I just want to acknowledge for a long, long time, there’s been one gender that has paved the way and gotten us to this point where we’re having conversations and it’s accepted to have conversations and here we are, four males, talking about sexual violence.
Mike Domitrz: Yes. That’s why I wanted to open the show when we did because I think this is an important part. While we’re here being the four representing, it got here because of the diversity of other genders starting this conversation, fighting for these rights of these conversations for survivors. As a whole, I’m not saying as individuals, our gender was linked to the conversation. What’s great about what you’re all saying is that you’re seeing that shift too. You’re seeing men wanting to get involved and I’m seeing it. I am working with more SARKS who are men. That is absolutely happening. Now, the numbers are not near equally yet, it’s still disproportionate, women that I’m seeing in the military but we are seeing a shift there that’s occurring.
Mike Domitrz: What about the person who says, “Hey, Mike, you have three high powered individuals here that had a lot of power, a lot of influences, guys who have a lot of privilege to be able to influence others.” What about those who could be listening in the military going, “I didn’t get those kind of resources. I didn’t get that kind of budget.” How do we get to this place of, “I wasn’t able to get my trainers great training.” How is that shift going to take place on a wider scale basis because I know personally, obviously Guy and Mike, I get to come in and help train the trainers on your installation on how to be better at training. I’ve been able to do that and even with Chuck, we could do some small versions of that in frontline managers and program managers, frontline leaders and program managers. But how do we get to that large scale place where that’s happening? Where sexual assault training is a priority to be given resources to everyone.
Mike Kontio: I would say first, we have to make everyone aware that that’s what they need. If you are aware, if you’re self aware that this is the type of training you need, then I would say that there’s resources out there. Regardless of the funding, I had little to no budget and I was able to leverage relationships and organizations that believed in it and we were able to make it happen. The challenge is showing people what right looks like, because when they’re putting the position of receiving, for example, training, we sit there and we say we know this isn’t right, we know that you’re saying this so that when I am faced in a situation that maybe questionable, you can say, “I told you so.” But yet when I’m charged to then lead that, I do the same thing because I do what I’m comfortable or what I know. For me, the example is showing people what right looks like and explaining or demonstrating the things that you talked about and how to correct what we’re talking about.
Mike Domitrz: Showing what right looks like, I love that language. Part of that is just showing the passion of what passion looks like, right? Because if a leader walks in and says, “All right, here we’re going to go over all this stuff today.” And there’s no passion, why do I believe I should care if you don’t appear to care? I mean, passion plays such a huge role here. I think that’s the one part that can be missed if somebody gets assigned into a role who wasn’t passionate about the topic in the first place and we don’t find a way to fire them up, we have somebody in a role potentially dealing with sexual violence, who is to train people from wanting to get involved because of a lack of passion. What did the three of you find was key to bringing that passion out in an individual if they didn’t naturally have it?
Chuck Marks: I think the critical part is one, enabling the right person with the passion, creating the right environment, a safe place to hold the training and then ensuring that the content is appropriate to that training environment. We’ve done a really good job in the military at providing content to all of our units that’s of sufficient quality, that the room doesn’t feel like they’re just doing a PowerPoint and doing [inaudible 00:37:35] training.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah, and I love what you said there about being able to give them the resources of how-to because to be fair, people go, “Well, they took so long to catch up.” Well, if you don’t know how to train, you can’t teach people how to train. Once the military leaders started to figure that out, “Hey, here’s the best methods for training on this.” That took time. Once they started to figure that out, now you are starting to see more and more of the military saying, “Hey, let’s teach our people how to train. Not just content, how to engage people, how to create a safe space, how to make it so it can be vulnerable.”
Mike Domitrz: I think for the longest time, the mistake was, “We’ve got content, go give this content.” And they forgot about technique. So you had trainers in bombing, and this is not just true in the military, this is true on college, this is true everywhere. You have people going out not connecting and you’ll go, “Oh my gosh, why didn’t you just hand me the PowerPoint slides? I could have got just as much watching the PowerPoint.” Today, they’re having engaged people go in and really talk with the room, engage and create that safe space you talked about. This is a big shift.
Mike Domitrz: Now, for anybody who’s listening who’s not aware, you might think, “Well, how much training is the military doing?” Way more, way, way more mandated required training than almost any university in this country does on a yearly basis. Almost every service in this military requires a three hour mandated required training per year. Now let’s compare that to the average university, where the only required training on sexual assault is somewhere around orientation and it could be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and that’s it. They don’t bring programs in the spring, they bring them in the fall. Now, I get to work with universities that are passionate and care deeply about this and they’re doing … They’re bringing us in and then they’re following up with our materials, our books and stuff to keep it going. But that’s not always the case. The military is actually leading the way in mandated training.
Guy Allsup: I would say yeah, passion is critical and I think one of the things the military is starting to do is let people open up about what they’re passionate about, which is important. A lot of the people that worked in my office, they were really passionate about advocacy and taking care of people who came in and reported and making sure that their resources and the timeline, like Mike said earlier, we do not want to lose that trust and we wanted people to know that if they walk through our door, that we were absolutely going to take care of them and give them everything that we needed to take care of them, to not lose that trust.
Guy Allsup: I will tell you one of the things I was passionate about was training. I was very passionate about training because I knew what it was like to go to some of those, “You could have just handed me the PowerPoint.” When you talk about number of hours and training, every Thursday, one of the things in my office owned was a newcomer’s brief to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. So, we have 200 to 500 brand new soldiers, officers, officers come sit in a theater and I never once used a PowerPoint, never once. Then the other things my office would touch on a weekly or bi-weekly basis was some of the other school training programs that were going on at Fort Bragg.
Guy Allsup: It was the commander and first sergeant. Those are kind of like your junior managers to the corporate world but we would go in there and we would get an hour with them, and we would go into other schools. We probably had two to three to four major training. I think when you talk about passion and you talk about training, if you put passion and people in the right places, like Mike said earlier, regardless of resources, they’re going to reach out, they’re going to make relationships, they’re going to build teams.
Guy Allsup: If I kind of move forward on a point you mad earlier, getting people to understand how important this is, I personally I’m a combat veteran Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing is more important than trust within your group in combats. So, what I would tell you is, as we help people yo understand emotional intelligence, we help people to understand trust, we help people to understand mutual respect. The most basic thing we need in the military or in the society are those values that allow us to create a cohesive team, whether that’s to go off to combat, whether that’s to serve here.
Guy Allsup: Sharp sexual harassment, sexual assault, I also earned another owned another hat, which was equal opportunity or equal employment opportunity. When you own all those hats and you see them all as one, those basic values, mutual respect dignity, building trust, all of a sudden now when I go to my commander and I say, “Hey, I’ve got this school training. I want to help people better understand how to make a stronger team so they’re more effective in combat and here’s the values we want to discuss.” Man, now I can get people to really buy in and buy in fast.
Mike Kontio: I want to make sure that when we talk about this word passion, we have to understand there’s different perspectives and understanding of that word passion. I’ve seen it play out negatively and positively. For example, when you’re doing advocacy, if I have a passion to help others but I’m doing that for myself, it could potentially cause some problems in the advocacy lane as well as commanders. Commanders, even if their passion, when they stand up there and they, for example, if they were to introduce you and they don’t know how to articulate their passion in a productive way, it can go horribly wrong and be counter productive.
Mike Domitrz: For those listening, I want to pause because for those listening, this happens. To give an example so that our listeners understand what we’re talking about. A commander walks out and I mean is fired up. Looks angry, looks like somebody just ruined their day and they walk up there and they’re like, “We’re about to have a program and let me tell you. This speaker we brought in and let me know under my command, there will be no sexual assault tolerated. Do you understand? No sexual assault is going to occur under my command. Now let’s give it up for the speaker. Boom, and that’s the introduction.” That’s a great example. I think when you start referencing those kind of moments, where they come in fired up, they’re passionate and they don’t realize the harm they’re doing.
Mike Kontio: Exactly. This is why we felt we had to go further left and coaching leaders. Really, when I think of passion and I think the true and the pure context that we’re talking about, I think of empowerment, the word empowerment. What we found is we had to empower leaders and commanders to say, “What type of organizational climate do you want to have?” Then work with them to develop an action plan that will work towards the outcome they want. Because if we just do annual training without any true focus or goals, then why are we doing it?
Mike Kontio: When we have conversation with leaders about, for example, how we have to be very intentional about the words we use, we’re also struggling with the culture within the military and I would say by large society at times there’s perfection. Because I ask leaders, what would you say or what would most people say the opposite of the strength is? They say weakness and I say, “Okay, well, what gender is mostly associated with weakness?” They’ll say, “Females.” I said, “Okay, what is it that males often fear the most?” Weakness or failure. Then why is it we are willing and have accepted to use a word that has such negative and powerful connotations that we continue to promulgate through out our force?
Mike Kontio: If we start with being intentional about words like they’re not weaknesses, they’re struggles and we celebrate failure. When we get to the point of talking or having those conversations, I think we’ve made progress towards what you’re talking about as being able to just have open and free dialog.
Mike Domitrz: I think what you’re saying is so important because I think a lot of people are thinking, “Wait a second, this a special forces guy saying that failure is celebrated?” I think what’s wonderful about that is it breaks the stereotype. People of the stereotype, you hear special forces and they think, “All I care about is winning. I’m going to win and win and win at all cost and do whatever.” That’s a mentality our country can have about individuals within special forces or just the military as a whole, where you’re saying, “No, there’s such a high level intelligence here.”
Mike Domitrz: We should be raising the standards of what we expect and give people the skills they have to experience that intelligence in their own life and to be able to thrive with that intelligence versus everything is black and white. Even that phrase black and white has its own danger and its own harm that can be done within that. I know some of us right now are probably thinking, “Mike, what’s wrong with that leader walking down and saying there’ll be no sexual assault under my command?” Here’s what’s wrong with that.
Mike Domitrz: If you are under the command of that and you are a survivor, you might think, “I can’t come forward now because I would be breaking what was set as the standard for my unit, for my command. I don’t want to be that person so I’m going to stay quiet.” That’s the kind of harm one statement like that can make, where what you’re saying is so important. Let’s take the IQ to another place. It’s not that we can raise someone’s IQ, but we can raise their knowledge of what they can use with their IQ, with that emotional IQ.
Mike Kontio: Hey, Mike, I’ll add that even more dangerous is if commanders that work under that commander, now are influenced by their leader saying, “We will not have a sexual assault.” When someone does potentially come to them or if they do, trying to deter them from reporting.
Mike Domitrz: Right. Yeah, and that happened over … I mean, we had a guest on Heath Philips who went to his leaders and said, “This is happening to me.” They did everything they could pretty much to shut him down. That doesn’t happen here. This is years ago. He also said it’s really improved. This was several years back, two decades ago, but still that mentality. Being able to give them the skills to realize how do I say we will not tolerate sexual assault and we will support all survivors by holding perpetrators accountable? That’s a very different statement then, there won’t any. It’s a 90-day statement. We’re here for you, we’re here to support you and know that we will hold those who do harm against us or each other accountable. That’s an emotional intelligence level.
Chuck Marks: I think another piece to this is you have to enable the conversations to allow folks to explore the vocabulary as well. You have to be able in a very safe place to correct the errors in vocabulary or the vocabulary that is more destructive than [inaudible 00:48:49]. It’s like having that first conversation about sex with your kids, really awkward, really hard, really uncomfortable. But if you do it more than once or you engage them continuous or continuing conversation, everyone builds the vocabulary and builds a comfort level. So, what we’re talking about is talking about very difficult things in a safe planning environment over time and over time, we’re building [inaudible 00:49:17] more and more people into those conversations, building up a more mature vocabulary that’s resulting them and our folks treating each other better everyday in the workplace.
Mike Domitrz: How do you feel that gender and identity integrates into this conversation? The military over the past years and really the last four has said, “Hey, we’re going to move forward with discussing identity and beyond male-female. Then at times it’s also been given the command of pull back on that. There’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster on identity. How do you think that plays a role in this work for reducing sexual violence?
Chuck Marks: I would just provide at the front end of that conversation that there’s two pieces that are worth exploring and probably a third. But the first piece is I think the older folks in the military have a much more difficult time with this than the younger folks in the military. A lot of the younger folks think that this is much to do about nothing. I would say that secondarily to that and maybe equally as important is the politics around this. That our [inaudible 00:50:25] is struggling with this and then we create as a result of that struggle policy that is imperfect, that’s difficult, that makes it confusing for the young people to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong and that’s even too rigid.
Chuck Marks: We’re trying to figure out what the playing field is and what the rules are which confuses folks as those policies evolve, I’m saying. I think the third part which is actually maybe the most important but also I think the easiest part, that because we’re a meritocracy in the military, it comes down to your performance which isn’t dictated by race or gender identity first. It’s dictated by your ability to perform the mission. Most of us are perfectly willing to accept whatever that individual is and how they define themselves if they can perform the mission.
Guy Allsup: Yeah, Mike, I totally agree with what Chuck just said. I was a basic training commander when we were having to teach the appeal of don’t ask, don’t tell. All the new soldiers coming through were like, “Hey, we don’t get it. We just came out of high school and we all see each other as equals and we don’t get it.” But it was a requirement, it was part of the policy change, so we needed to inform soldiers of the policy change because I totally agree it’s based on performance. To give you one of my own personal vignettes, when I was in [inaudible 00:51:51] Iraq, I had a close friend who couldn’t openly say that he was gay and he was one of my best friends. We served that whole deployment together. He confided in me …
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:52:04]
Guy Allsup: -and we serve that whole deployment together. He confided in me, there was a lot of trust there because at the time, that’s something if reported now, the commander would’ve had to of taken action on from a legal perspective.
Guy Allsup: But I think it goes back to, when we start not only just looking at each other in a professional setting from a performance standpoint, but we just start looking at each other from an understanding stand point, and I’ve said it a couple times. If I just go in and I say to my friend, “Hey, tell me about what your life has been like. Tell me about what your experiences have been like.” At the base of it all, we’re all human. We all have strengths and weaknesses, if we could just come from an understanding perspective, we can get there together. I think that’s … If we want to end sexual assault, if we want to end sexual harassment, if we want to end discrimination even, if I add that into the conversation, we need to come from understanding. We need to ask question to allow us to say first, “Hey, tell me what your experiences have been like. What has your life been like.” Then we just need to treat each other with that basic level of mutual respect.
Mike Kontio: I think there’s a level of, I’ve got to give trust to get trust as well. I have to give trust to the leaders that are charged to, I guess write the policy and set those parameters. Because If I’m in that position, that’s what I need from those that I’m charged to lead. I also, when it comes down to it, I’ll bring up a point that Melissa Agnes had brought up in your previous podcast about, you cannot counter or fight emotion with logic. It will lose every time, and I see it. I’ve seen it first hand with leaders when they’re telling a victim, “This is what we’re doing for you.” They begin to outline all the steps in the processes that they’ve done as a means to take care of an individual. In that moment, all they had to say was, “What do you need? How can I help you?”
Mike Kontio: When we look at this, and the topic and the question you just said, we just need to see people as people. I need to see you as Mike, and not as a label or as an object. Because if that is first and foremost in my mind, everything else is … I don’t want to say irrelevant, but I’m allowed to give you the space that you need to share your story.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah, absolutely. People don’t realize that when you use language that’s inclusive, versus when you don’t. When you don’t, you don’t realize how many people in that audience you have told, “You are not part of this conversation.” Because the words and the language I’m choosing by not being inclusive, means I’m not talking to this group over here, and you’re in this group over there. Even though you put your life on the line for this country, I’m not talking to you. How distancing that is. How painful that can be.
Mike Domitrz: What I always find amazing is, and it’s sad, now it’s shifting which is positive, which you’ve all brought up, is when we were inclusive early on and somebody would come up afterwards and go, “This is the first time in my life I was included in the conversation. That doesn’t mean that I actually went and talked to that person in the audience. There were a thousand people in the audience. But because of choice to treat everyone with dignity and respect, the audience hears that, and examples of it show by how you use words or pronouns throughout a program. Suddenly I am with my fellow shipmates. I am with my battle buddy in this conversation. We are all one, because nothing can separate us based on the fact we’re all being included in the conversation. It’s so important to this. So I’m glad you all brought that up.
Mike Domitrz: There’s an edgy, controversial discussion, that’s been going on for a few years now. On whether civilians should handle cases, or military leadership should handle cases. Now for those listening you might be going, “What are you talking about?” Well, when a case comes forward, there are people that feel due to retaliation, due to retribution, other reasons, that a commander might not want to remove somebody guilty of sexual violence if they could be of assistance to them at a time of war or urgent need. It was actually written so that could happen so that we didn’t harm our country at a pivotal time. That was the idea of it. Now people are saying, “We’re not in that place in our military. We’re in a different place and time. Why don’t civilians take care of these cases, so that there’s not military fear of coming forward, a retribution of retaliation. Why don’t they hand this over to civilians?”
Mike Domitrz: So I’ll let the three of you discuss whether you think they should, they shouldn’t, and why.
Guy Allsup: So, I’ve probably commanded the least of your three guests, and at probably the lower levels. Both times, I had UCMJ authority, Universal Code of Military Justice. So I had to remain neutral and fair, and all people that came in front of me that I had to decide what was happening. I will tell you, it’s hard, it’d difficult. When a person gets charged with a crime, and they’re in my unit, and I’m a good leader, I obviously know them. I also know their family.
Guy Allsup: So, do I think outside civilians need to adjudicate sexual assault, sexual harassment cases? Personally, I do not. Part of your leadership, part of your duty, responsibility, and part of your ownership of taking care of that unit, is that I know everyone in that unit. So I understand my stewardship to the government, to the military, but I also understand my stewardship to the organization, to the people, because there’s a process, as Mike has said. There’s the legal perspective, and then there’s the human dimension. There’s the people.
Guy Allsup: What I think the military could do to improve the current situation, this might be an interesting idea to throw out there but I heard a senior officer actually throw it out there. I thought about it, and thought about it, and I think it’s a great idea. If we could somehow separate, because often times I think what you hear is, you don’t want to remove a commander, so a commander could have been in the military three years, 20 years. So you don’t want to remove a commander. Well, what happens if I UCMJ a commander? Well, that commander could potentially lose his entire career, also his entire pension. Well, who does that affect? That affects the commander, who potentially did the wrong thing; that affects his spouse; and the people who depend on him, his children. Well, that’s an interesting dynamic. What if the military could separate the punishment? What if the military could punish the offender, and not adversely affect the family unit? That’s a better future and a better way ahead, then trying to pull out this authority from commanders.
Mike Domitrz: So if you’re referring to that, are you saying they would lose rank potentially? That can often be a punishment, that they would go down in rank. Let’s say that they were sent to Military Justice as far as prison, but the family would still receive all the same benefits and financial resources. Is that what your sort of describing there?
Guy Allsup: Yeah. I think that’s fair. Because, I think if you punish that individual, that’s fair.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah, let’s jump on this real quick. I can see people firing up on this, this is an interesting one. How do you answer the question then… Wait a second, that might work if they actually serve time, but if they don’t serve time and I say I’m going to retire you with a lesser rank, but your family’s going to get all the benefits, all the finances and everything, people are going to … If you’re a survivor and you’re watching that you’re going, “Where is the justice here? Where is the consequences for what occurred, what was done to me?” How do you respond to that?”
Guy Allsup: I think punishment fits the crime. So, let’s say the hypothetical is a sexual assault, they’re going to jail. I think that person goes to jail, I think they serve that sentence in jail. That was the person that did the crime, they’re in jail and they’re getting punished. On the outside of jail is potentially a spouse and some children who depend on that pension, that check, that money. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say they were not a part of the crime, then I don’t want to adversely affect them.
Guy Allsup: I think the situation we run into sometimes, not always, I think what you run into sometimes, you put a person on trial and you’re like, “Man, we’re about to strip this person’s entire pension, they’ve got a family at home. What about the family?” Right now, there’s no separation between the person who did the crime, and the people who are dependent on those resources within that family unit.
Mike Domitrz: What’s changed though, in the military system, is you cannot use that defense anymore. It used to be, you could say on trial you don’t want to ruin this person’s career. That defense is not allowed anymore so that people cannot guilt the trials into not convicting, because that’s really what that was doing. It was making the jury potentially feel guilty for holding somebody accountable for a crime.
Mike Domitrz: So, I’m curious what Mike and Chuck are going to think of this too, because I guess the other side of this that gets interesting is you said, “Hey, I’m responsible.” I’m very close with the offender potentially, this is somebody that could be a friend of mine in my command, therefore I need to remain neutral. Is it possible that yes, you’re remaining neutral, but the survivor and others and others in command cannot believe you are even if you are, because of the closeness of that relationship? Does it bias how are you are seen, and how the process is seen? Curious what both Mike and Chuck feel on that.
Chuck Marks: Okay, so going back I’ll come to that answer specifically in a second. I want to go back to the original question though and talk about the Commander’s Uniform Code of Military Justice authority, as it pertains to command. So that commander’s responsible for the good order and discipline of that command, and one of the tools in the toolbox is the UCMJ. I would tell you that, we’re after something that is a far higher standard.
Mike Domitrz: Just so everybody knows, that’s United States Military Justice.
Chuck Marks: Uniform Code.
Mike Domitrz: Uniform Code, I’m sorry. I said the wrong, what did I say? Uniform Code of Military Justice. Yes.
Chuck Marks: So, that tool in the toolbox is just one tool. It is only one standard, and it is also a far lower standard then the standard of conduct we expect out of our folks. So in the case of the Navy core values, honor, courage, and commitment, is something far more than breaking the law. We also have Navy regulations that are a higher standard than the UCMJ, Uniform Code of Military Justice. So when we think about the standard of conduct we expect in the command, and you think about the range of things that are on the continuum of sexual assault from penetrator sexual assault all the way to harassment, and really just maltreatment of peers and coworkers. The commander has the full visibility and understanding of how that impacts the command and the individuals within the command.
Chuck Marks: I am very comfortable with commanders having UCMJ authority.
Mike Kontio: Chuck, can you also talk about the threshold for punitive action against an offender from a UCMJ standard versus a criminal?
Chuck Marks: Yeah. That’s a great point. If you think about the civilian processing of a case, and the civilian system that’s in process across most of the United States, I think most folks would be alarmed at the standard that’s applied there. Most prosecutors are elected, and the standard of conduct for them to get reelected is their prosecution rate. So the cases they will refer to prosecution generally are cases where they have a high likelihood of winning.
Chuck Marks: In the case of a commander and the execution of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and any other non-judicial punishment, which it doesn’t violate specifically the UCMJ, but may have violated different standard of conduct. We also get a far higher prosecution rate in our cases. That’s not because we’re violating due process for our alleged offenders, it’s because we apply several different standards depending on the severity of the incident. As opposed to either it goes to trial, or it doesn’t go to trial. I think if we were to refer cases to a civilian system, we would erode our prosecution rates, we would let far more offenders get away with the crimes than we currently do.
Chuck Marks: Now, getting to is there room for improvement in the process? Yes, there always is. Commander’s need to be very meticulous about insuring that their standard of conduct, and their moral reputation to their command is somebody that executes things with balance and equality that protects victims rights, but also ensures due process for alleged offenders. Then I would add that there’s another element to this, which is our judicial court in the military. We have folks that are trained that are experts specifically in the processing of sexual assault cases. At every turn, those individuals are advising the commanders.
Chuck Marks: So I think when you look at that process in its totality, and the commander protecting the good order of discipline space and the command, we have a system in the military that I think is far more robust than I think in any of the 50 states in the United States. I know that there are folks in congress that would argue against this, some of whom were prosecutors themselves. I think they’re selling bad press when they do that, because there are pretty spectacular flaws in the civilian system. I would also argue that case processes time in the civilian system is pretty atrocious.
Mike Domitrz: It’s horrendous. I’m involved, involved as in, a case came forward after I spoke in a school. Because of that, it’s been two years. This survivor is still waiting for trial. Two years. So, you’re absolutely correct that the wait time in the civilian side can be grossly long and horrible for survivors to have to wait on. What would you said in the military, typically would you see as the response rate at the time of judicial process?
Chuck Marks: Well, I’ll tell you the hard data when I retired a couple of months ago. Our case processing time for the atlantic fleet on average for all sexual assault cases, was 184 days from first report to case closing.
Mike Domitrz: Right. Much faster.
Chuck Marks: Now, we do have cases that take a lot longer. We have some very complex cases, that are really as a result of our force being distributed all around the world. So, when you come forward with a late report, meaning, “I’m reporting an assault that took place two years ago,” and you have to unpack that case overseas, and the witnesses are now scattered, some outside the military. I would tell you, those are the things that make up our really long processing cases; however, the cases that come in in a timely manner, where most of the folks are still attached to the same organization where the incident occurred, those things happen very quickly.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah. It’s important for our listeners to know that if you’re serving in the US Military, you have two options for reporting within the military. You have what’s called a restricted report, and an unrestricted report.
Mike Domitrz: A restricted report means, there’s one of four individuals in the US Military roles, I shouldn’t say individuals, people with these titles. The SARC, which is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, the victim advocate, Chaplin, and medical professional who’s taken the oath. There are these four individuals, and it stays restricted which means it goes no further. It’s completely confidential. So you do have an option if you do not want to go through judicial process, to be able to still seek support. The SAP, or the SARC programs will support you if you go down that road.
Mike Domitrz: You also have the unrestricted. Unrestricted means, that you’re going to move forward, and it’s going to be investigated 100 percent of the time. Another massive difference we do not see in the civilian world. People do not believe that if I report it will be a full investigation 100 percent of the time. They think people might look into it, but they don’t believe. I’m not saying they wouldn’t get 100 percent, but they don’t believe that. That’s a significant difference here, correct?
Mike Kontio: That distinction is made so that individuals can still seek services, aside from going through the entire investigation process, to allow people to seek those services they need. I will say, that by and large, we need to remember that we need to let commanders command, or leaders lead. Those that are there to support those leaders, this is why I go back to we need to invest in those that are the face of the program, your SARC’s, your VA’s, to help them to be able to communicate with leaders and commanders at the table, to inform them of the situation, to allow them to make informed decisions.
Mike Domitrz: Thank you for that Mike, I appreciate that. What is something that we have not addressed today, an aspect that you think is important to still address, from any of you?
Chuck Marks: Mike, I have one thing I’d like to add in. Something that we’ve discovered, and I’m sure it’s pretty similar across the services, that taking on sexual assault cannot be done in isolation. So if you think about sexual assault this is really about, in the case of the military, sailors respecting each other. Suicide prevention is about sailors respecting themselves. When it comes to domestic violence, it’s about sailors respecting family. You have to go after all of these things together, you cannot do them in isolation, because all of them are erode our ability for our small teams to fight and win. You have to have a program that integrates the approach for all of these, as opposed to having one thing in isolation.
Mike Domitrz: I think that’s incredibly important. We’re working with organizations, we see a culture of respect is going to address so many topics within your organization if you truly create one, if you learn how. Because if you treat every human being, including yourself with dignity and respect, you have just addressed so many societal issues that we try to handle in silos individually. When if you just go to the heart of it, it’s dignity and respect that comes down to it.
Mike Domitrz: Mike, anything you wanted to add?
Mike Kontio: Yeah. Chuck, thanks for bringing that up. That’s a good point. I think it’s refreshing for commanders and leaders to hear that. Because instead of having these synergistic silos of programs that I have to support, I can bring them together. I will go back to what I said when I started, it requires a commitment. That is not just from a leader, that’s a self commitment. Meaning, I must be willing to take the journey and become aware of that which are my struggles. When you talk about the word respect, let’s have a conversation about what does the word mean, just the word respect mean to you? Because in a military organization if I said, “Define respect.” One might say, “That means that you obey orders when given.” Outside of that it might say or mean, do unto others as I want to be treated. So that disparity in the understanding of just the word respect, is huge.
Mike Kontio: So just having the conversation, Mike, requires a level of self-awareness, and requires that I commit to a journey for myself to be able to lead myself first. Because if we talk words like leadership, and trust, and character, and love, if I don’t understand those, or I don’t do those things to myself, can I really and fully understand the meaning and the power of those words?
Mike Domitrz: I love it. Guy, what would you like to add?
Guy Allsup: So, I kind of threw a one hand grenade already. I think when we talk about this topic, one the military’s great at is processes. We’re great at processes. This is clearly in the human dimension. This is a relational based issue. So, the way you get after relational based issues, is we have to have conversations like we’re doing right now. Where we can all sit down at the table, we can ask questions, we can speak honestly, and we know that it’s a safe environment, and that it’s not about any one person being right, or having the right answer. That there might be an answer, another answer, and a different answer, and that’s okay. Humans are both complex and complicated.
Guy Allsup: So, I think we need to start to pull back on some of these processes, and start to look at it more through this human perspective. This human lens. If we can start to un-process some of our approach … I think it was one of the books I read, and it said, “Leadership is influence.” I think it was John Maxwell. If we can just go back and start to have human conversations, and build relationships, and understand this topic from a human perspective, I think that’s how we have to approach it. I think we have to de-process some of this learning environment and training environment.
Mike Domitrz: Well, I love what everybody’s brought to the table. I’ve been fortunate, because these three individuals that you’ve been hearing from today, two of them are at the same installations, but we got to do some really unique work there. Some really high intense multi-day training, training people how to work. Chuck, we’ve been able to travel the world to different installations sharing these messages that … a lot of what we’re talking about today. How do we do this? How do we go about doing this? Getting to do that around the world with sailors. So, I want to thank all three of you for the service you have given to our country, the sacrifices you have made, your family has made as we all know, that work with the military, I am not military, so I don’t say I as in you, I did not have to give those same sacrifices that you have all made, and your families have made. Thank you so much for all you’ve given to your country, all you’ve sacrificed, and all you’ve shared with us here today.
Chuck Marks: Thanks for the opportunity.
Mike Kontio: Thanks, Mike. Thanks for what you do. What you have done for a long, long time. Giving us the space to allow our voices to be heard.
Guy Allsup: Yeah, Mike. Thank you, I appreciate it. Thanks for carrying the torch forward.
Mike Domitrz: Well, you all know, I love doing this work. Now, for our listeners who want you to know, if you want to engage in this conversation that we’re having right now, go to our Facebook group. It’s really easy to find, it’s the Respect Podcast Discussion Group. That’s all you’ve got to look up on Facebook. Dive in and have these conversations, so you can be part of continuing this discussion past listening to today’s podcast.
Mike Kontio: Hey, Mike, that’s a point. I want to emphasis that. In the previous podcast, these are a segue to a conversation that you want to continue whether people agree or disagree with us in the space of the comments. Is that correct?
Mike Domitrz: Yes, absolutely.
Mike Kontio: Okay.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah. We want to hear what people are thinking, so that’s why we invite that on Facebook. One again, it’s the Respect Podcast Discussion Group. You’ll find the link to it in our show notes. So anybody listening, if you’re listening on iTunes, just scroll down the scroll notes, you’ll see the link to it, but you’ll also see it on our website, therespectpodcast.com. So there’s links to it everywhere, so everybody can be part of that conversation. So thanks for that clarification, Mike.
Mike Domitrz: Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Respect Podcast, which was sponsored by the Date Safe Project, at datesafeproject.org. Remember, you can always find me at mikespeaks.com.
PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [01:16:21]
Author: Paul Schuler