366th FW SARC launches CATCH program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tyrell Hall
  • 366th Fighter Wing Puclic Affairs
The Gunfighter Sexual Assault Response team implemented a Department of Defense-wide sexual assault reporting system August 5th, 2019.

The Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program gives victims of sexual assault who are making a restricted report an opportunity to anonymously enter suspect information into its database.

When victims use the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator’s (SAPR) office to file a restricted report of sexual assault, they have the choice to participate in the CATCH program. This program has the ability to match reports within its database in order to identify serial offenders.

The SARC is notified by the CATCH point of contact of a match, and it is the responsibility of the SARC to make contact with the victim and discuss a way forward. At this point, the victim understands it is still their choice to convert their restricted report to unrestricted. This, in turn, would support the goal of catching offenders.

“If we get a match in the system, the SARC will notify the victim,” said 1st Lt. Josephine Kane, 366th Fighter Wing alternate SARC. “From that point the individual will have the option to switch their restricted report to unrestricted.”

CATCH is voluntary and victims have the choice not to participate when making a restricted report.

Oftentimes victims don’t come forward right away. Among the most common reasons are not being personally ready and fear of others’ disbelief.

Thanks to the CATCH program they are able to come forward and see they are not alone, decreasing the fear of rejection and encouraging them to speak up.

“The purpose of CATCH is to give victims a stronger basis to decide whether or not they make an unrestricted report,” said Katherine Miller, 366th Fighter Wing SARC. “CATCH is really important because we know that serial perpetration happens more often than we would like to think.”

Miller explained that catching serial offenders is a top goal and if victims are informed of a match to their report there’s a potential they may be more willing to have their report investigated.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team are also notified by military criminal investigators at their headquarters of any matches that occur in the system.

Names of victims remain confidential throughout the reporting process. If a report goes unrestricted, then the information, including the identity of the victim, is pulled from the net and is used only for official investigations.

According to Miller, the CATCH data is analyzed by a Military Criminal Investigative Office (MCIO); the Office of Special Investigation (OSI) being the Air Force’s MCIO. However, they cannot initiate an investigation no matter how many matches are identified.

“The report won’t be investigated unless the victim chooses to convert their restricted report to an unrestricted report,” Miller said.

Miller also explained that the system will never automatically switch a restricted report to unrestricted.

SARC operates with various legal entities to maximize the use of the CATCH program for the purpose of carrying out more efficient investigations.

“The CATCH program links with civilian law enforcement databases,” Kane said. “With that function, it gives the system a wider reach to catch serial offenders.”

With CATCH, victims are empowered and can gain closure knowing the program is geared toward aiding legal systems in the execution of justice.

“The whole point of our program is focused on empowerment of victims,” Miller said. “We want to give victims back the power to make the choice.”

Miller explained oftentimes she finds victims don’t often seek only justice, but also validation of their feelings and emotions. It can also help to know that other people have gone through similar issues.

If members do not wish to make a report unrestricted, they have the option to be notified any time in the next ten years that the report is kept on record of any further matches to their report.

With the use of CATCH, a more efficient process of identifying serial perpetrators is underway and the Air Force can catch serial offenders before they can inflict harm on others.

“It’s important to give victims the opportunity to speak their story when they’re ready,” Miller said. “I think CATCH is a really good program for that.”