Navy leader seeks new ways to support survivors of sexual assault

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U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson (L), the U.S. chief of naval operations, waits for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their talks at Abe's official residence in Tokyo October 15, 2015. U.S. naval vessels sailing through international waters in the South China Sea, including areas claimed by China, cannot be considered provocative, the U.S. Navy's most senior uniformed officer said on Thursday, while a Chinese newspaper called for a firm response to any "unscrupulous" U.S. behavior. REUTERS/Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool - RTS4JHV

U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson, the U.S. chief of naval operations, waits for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their talks at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo October 15, 2015. Richardson announced Thursday that he would begin several initiative aimed at supporting survivors of sexual assault. Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Navy’s new top officer is launching several initiatives targeting the problem of sexual assault in the ranks.

Adm. John Richardson, who took over as chief of naval operations in September, said Thursday he wants to make clear that he is as committed as any of his predecessors to trying to eliminate sexual assault. He called it one of several forms of “destructive behavior” that must be attacked.

Richardson said the Navy will work out ways to enable victims of sexual assault to leave the service early if they choose — so-called “expedited discharge.”

He also is expanding a program that puts civilian counselors aboard ships to make their services available to sexual assault victims. Eventually this would be expanded to Navy installations ashore, Richardson told reporters in an interview.

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