Navy begins using program to catch repeat sexual assault offenders

WASHINGTON - The Navy is now using a Department of Defense program to help identify repeat sexual offenders in the service.

This week, the Navy began implementing the Catch a Serial Offender, or CATCH, program.

The Navy stresses that participation in the program by victims is voluntary. If a victim chooses to participate, a victim who files a restricted report can confidentially submit information about his or her alleged offender.

The goal is to match similar information from other cases.

According to the Navy, "Restricted reporting gives a victim time and opportunity to get information about available services and fully explore his or her rights, so he or she can make informed decisions without the pressure of an investigation or any legal processes."

Related: Military sexual assaults increase by 38%, Pentagon report says

Under the program, when a match in data is identified from reported cases, a CATCH victim point of contact then privately notifies the victim -- allowing that person to convert the restricted report to unrestricted if they choose, allowing the victim to participate in the investigation.

In a statement, Melissa Cohen, director of the Navy's Sexual Assault and Prevention Officer, said, "This is part of a multi-faceted approach aimed at holding offenders accountable."

CATCH works with a electronic database, with participants receiving personal, anonymous login information to add their report.

The Navy adds that the victim can decline to participate at an stage, even after being told there was a match to information they provided in CATCH, without consequences.

Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, are also eligible to participate in the program.

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