One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, and 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
In an effort to catch and stop serial sexual offenders, the Department of Defense has developed the Catch a Serial Offender, or CATCH, program to help identify repeat sexual assault suspects. The program, which reached full operational capability Aug. 5, is operated by the Department of the Navy, Naval Criminal Investigation Service, for use by all branches of the U.S. armed forces.
“The CATCH program allows victims to confidentially provide information about their offender and incident to DOD criminal investigators while still filing a restricted report,” said Jennifer Blatter, Space and Missile Defense Command’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program manager.
When filing a sexual assault report within the DOD’s channels, victims can choose either a restricted or unrestricted report. A restricted report allows a victim to disclose the sexual assault without triggering an official investigation and receive medical treatment, advocacy services, legal assistance and counseling.
“The CATCH program allows victims who choose to file a restricted report to confidentially submit information about their alleged offender or incident into the CATCH system to help DOD identify serial offenders.” Blatter said. “Investigators will have no access to victims’ names, identifying information, or the full incident report. No personally identifiable information about the victim is collected in the CATCH computer system.”
Those eligible to participate in the CATCH program are adult sexual assault victims who have filed a restricted report including current and former service members and their adult dependents. Military Service Academy cadets and midshipman are also eligible.
“Military criminal investigators compare information provided by victims with information in law enforcement databases to identify repeat offender matches,” Blatter said. “If a match is found, the victim is privately notified by a specially trained CATCH point of contact. The victim can then decide if he or she wants to participate in the military justice process. Except for looking for matches, no further investigation of the incident will occur without the victim changing the status of their report to unrestricted.”
The information collected may include:
• Offender: name, military status, rank/unit, gender, age, physical description, visible scars, tattoos, or other identifying marks
• Incident information: date/time, location, weapons/force, threats, alcohol/drugs, any social media use, injuries to the offender, contact with the offender
• Vehicle information
• Pictures, if available and wanted to shared
Each CATCH entry will stay in the system for 10 years and can be updated at any time. Participants may also choose to opt out of the program at any time.
To learn more about the CATCH program, visit the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office website at www.sapr.mil/catch.