Options Available To Military Victims Of Sexual Assault
February 1, 2009
As promised, I’m doing a follow-up on the sexual assault article from a few days ago. Hopefully, with this post, our readers will better understand what options are available to victims of sexual assault in the military and be able to better understand the steps that have put into place to ensure that victims of sexual assault not only receive the treatment that they are entitled to, but the steps that the military has taken to ensure that the victim of a sexual assault is treated with fairness and respect and given options on how their case will be handled. While the system is never perfect and there are cases in which the victim isn’t treated with fairness and respect, in most instances, the system has been created to ensure the safety and care of the victim.
According to Army Policy, Sexual Assault is a criminal offense that has NO place in the Army. It degrades mission readiness by devastating the Army’s ability to work effectively as a team. It has a devastating and often lasting impact on the victim, a fellow Soldier. The Army is serious about this program and about doing everything possible to prevent sexual assaults from occurring within it’s ranks. The goals of the Army’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program are:
Create a climate that minimizes sexual assault incidents, which impact Army personnel, Army civilians, and family members, and, if an incident should occur, ensure that victims and subjects are treated according to Army policy.
Create a climate that encourages victims to report incidents of sexual assault without fear. Establish sexual assault prevention training and awareness programs to educate Soldiers. Ensure sensitive and comprehensive treatment to restore victims’ health and well-being.
Ensure leaders understand their roles and responsibilities regarding response to sexual assault victims, thoroughly investigate allegations of sexual assault, and take appropriate administrative and disciplinary action.1
Sexual Assault is a CRIME both in the military and in the civilian sector. Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannont consent. Sexual assault can occur without regard to gender, spousal relationship or sexual orientation. Sexual assault is not about romance or passion, but instead it’s about exerting power and control over someone else. Sexual assault is a crime that the Army takes very seriously, as well they should.
In the Army, victim’s of sexual assault are given two reporting options. Those options are Restricted Reporting or Unrestricted Reporting. I’ll explain the difference.
* A restricted report does not trigger the investigative process.
* A restricted report allow the service member who is sexually assaulted to disclose the incident to the following people:
The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
A Victim Advocate (This can be an Installation Victim Advocate or a Unit Victim Advocate.
A Healthcare Provider
* A restricted report allows the victim to receive medical treatment, a forensic examination, victim advocacy services and counseling assistance.
* A restricted report allows only non-identifying information to be provided to the installation commander, for statistical purposes.2
A restricted report has both benefits and limitations. The benefits of utilizing the restricted reporting option are that the victim is able to receive medical treatment, advocacy services and counseling. The victim is provided with personal space and time to consider their options without pressure. The victim is in control over the release and management of his or her personal information. The victim can change to an unrestricted report at any time. The disadvantages of restricted reporting are: The victim’s assailant remains unpunished. The victim cannot obtain a military protective order. The victim may continue to have contact with their assailant. The victim will not be able to discuss the assault with other service members without initiating the obligation for them to report the crime.
* Allows the investigative process to begin.
* Law enforcement and command structure are notified.
* Actions are taken to protect the victim from further acts of violence.
* The victim can obtain both a military and civilian protective order against their assailant.
* The victim can receive medical treatment, including a forensic examination, counseling and the victim is able to inform the appropriate legal and command authority.
* The offender is held accountable.3
As in restricted reporting, there are both advantages and disadvantages to an unrestricted report. The advantages are that the victim is ensured the widest range of rights and protections that is available. Commander support (Military protective orders and separation from the offender. A full investigation is conducted which enhances the opportunity to hold the offender accountable for the crime. This may encourage other victims to come forward. Enhances community safety. The disadvantages to unrestricted reporting are: Once a victim has chosen unrestricted reporting, they cannont change back to a restricted report. The victim may consider the investigative process and court proceedings too intrusive. Other people will become aware of the incident. The investigative process and court proceedings may be lengthy.
On every Army Installation, there are civilian Installation Victim Advocates who are there to meet with victims of sexual assault. The role of the victim advocate is to provide essential support and care to the victim to include providing non-clinical information on available options and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions as they progress through resolution and healing. The VA maintains communications and contact with victim as needed for continued victim support. As well, each Army unit has Unit Victim Advocates who are military counterparts of the Installation Victim Advocate. Their role, is the same as the Installation Victim Advocate. Unit Victim Advocates are also deployed, to ensure that if a Soldier is sexually assaulted during a deployment, that they receive the same treatment and services that are available to them stateside.
To read more about the Army’s commitment to responding to and preventing sexual assaults, please visit The Army Sexual Assault Response and Prevention website. There you will find information on various prevention strategies that are in place, Army regulations about Sexual Assault and the punishments for committing this horrendous crime, guidance for leaders, as well as links for training and further information.