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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Program Aims to Stop Military Sexual Assaults

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Department of Defense issued a rule that aims to create "a culture free of sexual assault" in the military by improving prevention, education and the support of assault victims.

The Defense Department created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office to deal with the problem of sexual assaults in the military.

According to the office, 80 percent of sexual assaults in the military are not reported, and less than ten percent of prosecuted cases go to trial.

In an effort to maintain greater accountability for sexual assault, the office created a database that tracks incidents, which was implemented in a final rule issued Friday.

The final rule expands the categories of military personnel to which the program applies. For example, any military dependent eligible for military health care can seek services through the program if she or he is assaulted by anyone other than a spouse or partner.

The rule provides that the family advocacy program and domestic violence staff will coordinate actions if a sexual assault occurs in a domestic relationship or involves child abuse.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program aims to "focus on the victim and [do] what is necessary and appropriate to support victim recovery" and to support service members "to be fully mission capable and engaged."

Civilian employees of the Defense Department are also eligible for services when they are stationed in the United States, as well as military contractors accompanying troops.

Because so many sexual assaults in the military go unreported, the rule also provides for a restricted reporting option that allows a victim to confidentially disclose the assault to healthcare personnel or employees of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

Under these rules, a victim can receive medical treatment and counseling without triggering an official investigation.

A victim's restricted report will not be reported to law enforcement or the victim's commanding officer unless the victim consents. "The DoD supports effective command awareness and preventive programs. The DoD also strongly supports applicable law enforcement and criminal justice procedures that enable persons to be held accountable for sexual assault offenses and criminal dispositions, as appropriate," the department wrote. 'To achieve these dual objectives, DoD preference is for complete Unrestricted Reporting of sexual assaults to allow for the provision of victims' services and to pursue accountability. However, Unrestricted Reporting may represent a barrier for victims to access services, when the victim desires no command or law enforcement involvement. Consequently, the Department recognizes a fundamental need to provide a confidential disclosure vehicle via the Restricted Reporting option."

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