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Deciding whether to report domestic abuse can be difficult. If you are experiencing abuse in your relationship, it is normal to feel alone, afraid and unsure about asking for help. Knowing your reporting options can help you decide what to do next.
The Defense Department’s Family Advocacy Program is committed to supporting service members and their families impacted by domestic abuse.
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You have options to decide if, how and when to report domestic abuse in the military, with some exceptions. Knowledge is power, and understanding your reporting options for domestic abuse can help you decide how to proceed.
Restricted or confidential reporting option
With a restricted report, military law enforcement and command will not be notified.
Three groups of professionals may keep information about domestic abuse confidential under the restricted reporting option:
- Domestic abuse victim advocates
- FAP clinicians
- Health care providers*
Making a restricted report means:
- Law enforcement is not notified.
- Command is not involved.
- You have access to the full range of FAP services, including counseling and support from a domestic abuse victim advocate. They will work with you to develop a safety plan and identify your next steps, including pursuing options both within and outside the military system.
Victims are also entitled to the protections of privileged communication with a chaplain. Disclosing domestic abuse to a chaplain is not the same as making a report and will not connect you to FAP services.
Victim Advocate Locator
Use the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator to find the victim advocate closest to you.
Because victim safety is a priority, you cannot use the restricted reporting option if you are in immediate risk of serious harm. And the restricted reporting option does not apply to child abuse cases, which are required by law to be reported to law enforcement and child protective services.
* Some state-specific laws may require medical providers to report known or suspected incidents of domestic abuse to law enforcement regardless of a victim’s preferences. Contact your local FAP or legal assistance office to learn more.
Unrestricted or non-confidential reporting option
When an unrestricted report is made, FAP will notify both law enforcement and the service member’s military command.
Making an unrestricted report means:
- Law enforcement will conduct an investigation of the incident, which includes contacting the alleged abuser.
- Command will be notified.
- Victims can seek a Military or Civilian Protective Order.
- Victims have access to the full range of FAP services, including counseling and support from a domestic abuse victim advocate. They will work with victims to develop a safety plan and identify next steps.
- Victims have access to legal services on military installations.
- Victims can receive assistance when applying for transitional compensation, if applicable.
Support for Victims
If you are a victim and are concerned that your spouse or partner may find out that you are seeking help for abuse, contact your nearest FAP office to connect with a domestic abuse victim advocate or your reach out to your health care provider. They can help you consider what type of report is best for you; if, when and/or how to make a report and can assist you in accessing additional services.
Victims may also decide to seek help outside the military, where stricter confidentiality rules may apply pursuant to federal, state and local laws and policies. Shelters and agencies in your area can help you consider your options.
You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for 24/7 help in English, Spanish and more than 140 other languages. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.
Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator
Find help for domestic abuse from the victim advocate closest to you by using the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator — whether you’re in the United States or overseas.
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Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, visit the 24/7 Family Advocacy Program Victim Advocate Locator or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800−799−7233.