Service members who have been sexually assaulted — and in some circumstances their adult dependents — have two reporting options: restricted reporting and unrestricted reporting. For more information about each option, including examples and step-by-step reporting instructions, visit the reporting page at the MyDuty website, which is the Department of Defense's (DoD) online sexual assault information center. The site will also tell you exactly what to do if you, a friend, or someone you supervise has been sexually assaulted. In addition, there is help available for anyone in the military community at DoD Safe Helpline. Safe Helpline (1-877-995-5247) is a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one support, and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is confidential, anonymous, secure, and available worldwide, 24/7 by click, call, or text — providing people with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.
Service members who want their sexual assaults to be investigated can make an Unrestricted Report to chain of command, law enforcement, health care providers, their Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), or Victim Advocate (VA). Department policy requires that details regarding the sexual assault be shared strictly on a "need to know" basis (with commanders, investigators, and prosecutors, for example). Sexual assault victims are entitled to the following services:
- sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE)
- medical treatment
- victim advocacy, support, and crisis intervention
- mental health counseling
- criminal investigation of the case
- military protection order against the offender, if appropriate
Service members and their adult dependents that do not want to participate in an investigation can only make a Restricted Report through a SARC, a victim advocate, or a health care provider. Restricted reporting provides access to advocacy, support, a SAFE, and health care, but does not alert command or military law enforcement. There are certain limitations on Restricted Reporting, such as when there is a safety risk to the victim that requires the assistance of law enforcement or the involvement of the Family Advocacy Program. A SARC or VA can explain these limitations in greater detail. Restricted Reports may be converted at any time to an Unrestricted Report, however after five years any evidence obtained during the SAFE will be destroyed.
It's up to the victim to decide how to report and what kind of assistance or treatment to engage. Be sure to understand each option thoroughly before making a decision. Sometimes, military members do not want to engage any military services. DoD Safe Helpline (described above) is a great starting point to explore civilian services that may be available in your community. Military members may seek counseling from a local rape crisis center. These civilian organizations usually do not charge for counseling or advocacy. If you wish to engage a civilian care provider at government expense, ensure that you obtain the appropriate TRICARE referral first. TRICARE may not cover all services.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program
The SAPR Program was formally implemented as a DoD policy in 2005. Program goals include helping prevent sexual assaults through training and education, encouraging reporting of the crime, providing treatment and support to sexual assault victims, and ensuring the SAPR program works as designed within the military services.
The SAPR Office (DoD SAPRO) serves as DoD's single point of authority, accountability, and oversight for sexual assault policy matters. In addition, each Service branch has its own SAPR Program Office which oversees and coordinates SAPR activities within that Service. At the installation level, SARCs and VAs are available to work with victims, help them consider their options, and learn more about their rights. Visit the SAPR website for more information.
Care for Military Members in Transition to Civilian Life
Service members who have an active case with the SAPR Program at the time of military separation are entitled to be kept informed about their case through the SARC or victim advocate.
Veterans can receive free, confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to "Military Sexual Trauma" (MST) — the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) term for sexual assault and harassment experienced while in military service. Veterans do not need to be service-connected (have a VA disability rating). You may be able to receive this benefit even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened. You do not need to have proof that they occurred. Contact the MST Coordinator at your nearest VA Facility or call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247.
Service members who have developed a disability due to a sexual assault while on active duty are entitled to apply with the VA for disability benefits. The application process for disability benefits due to sexual assault is the same as for any disability. Verifying the cause of the disability can be more difficult if the sexual assault was not reported or if no medical documentation is available to substantiate the claim. However, the VA is aware that because of the personal and sensitive nature of MST stressors, it is often difficult for a victim to report or document the crime or event. A new guideline issued by the VA in 2011 encourages VA personnel to weigh evidence of sexual assault or harassment in a light most favorable to a veteran. For assistance with disability benefits claims, contact a VA Readjustment Counseling Service, a local VA facility, or a local veterans group. Information about VA benefits and an application are also available on the VA website.