Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time. It can be overwhelming and devastating for victims and their families, but there are many resources available that provide accurate information, prompt medical care, counseling and assistance with the military justice system.
What is sexual assault?
Per DoD Directive 6495.01, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program, sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault can occur without regard to gender or spousal relationship or age of victim.
"Consent" means words or overt acts indicating a freely given agreement to the sexual conduct at issue by a competent person. An expression of lack of consent through words or conduct means there is no consent. Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission resulting from a perpetrator's use of force, threat of force or placing another person in fear does not constitute consent. A current or previous dating relationship or the manner of dress of the person involved with the perpetrator does not constitute consent. There is no consent where the person is sleeping or incapacitated, such as due to age, alcohol or drugs, or mental incapacity.
As stated in the definition, the attacker does not have to use physical force to commit a sexual assault. The person may instead use threats or intimidation to make someone feel like he or she cannot say no. Sexual assault can also occur when someone is too drunk, drugged, unconscious, or otherwise mentally incapacitated to be able to agree to sexual contact. Most sexual assault victims do not physically fight off their attackers – a victim does not have to physically resist the attacker to demonstrate a lack of consent in a criminal case. Additionally, every state has its own laws about the age of consent for sexual contact, which may also be different from military law. Moreover, some countries define sexual assault differently than the United States does. Questions about what is and what isn't sexual assault can often be discussed with a helping professional.
What is the Department of Defense SAPR Program?
The DoD SAPR Program helps prevent sexual assault involving service members through training and education programs, treatment and support to victims of sexual assault, and military system accountability when sexual assaults are reported and investigated. The DoD SAPR Office serves as the military's single point of accountability on sexual assault policy matters. Additionally, each branch of Service has its own SAPR Office, which oversees and coordinates the SAPR activities within that Service. At the installation level, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators or victim advocates are available to work with victims and help them consider their options and learn more about their rights.
Who is eligible for services under the SAPR Program?
Generally, anyone who is entitled to receive care at a military treatment facility is eligible to receive treatment for sexual assault to include dependents. However, some groups are only able to report a sexual assault through one of the two available reporting options.
What options are available for someone who was sexually assaulted?
Sexual assault victims have the option to report the sexual assault through two different reporting options:
- Restricted Reporting – Victims may disclose the sexual assault to the SARC, victim advocate, or a healthcare provider without a formal report being made to law enforcement or command. Victims receive appropriate medical care and are referred to a victim advocate for further services. The victim advocate provides information about reporting to command and will help the victim weigh the pros and cons of choosing to report at a later time.
- Unrestricted Reporting – Victims who want to pursue an official investigation of the incident can elect the unrestricted reporting option and use current reporting channels, such as command, law enforcement or the SARC. There are exceptions to the restricted reporting option for victims, including when disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the safety of the victim or another individual.
The restricted reporting option is not available to DoD civilians or contractors. Any victim of sexual assault can receive medical treatment (with or without medical evidence collection) and counseling or victim advocacy for emotional support and information.
What are victim advocates and what do they do?
Victim advocates are available 24 hours a day through personal or telephonic contact to help victims of sexual assault consider their options and learn more about their rights, with the goal of ensuring victims are actively involved in all aspects of their safety and service plans. Victim advocacy services include:
- Assessment of safety and assistance developing a safety plan
- Assessment of medical needs, information about a sexual assault forensic examination and referral to medical care
- Information about the installation's response to a report of sexual assault, including information about reporting options and the military disciplinary system
- Comprehensive information and referral to military and civilian resources
Where should military dependents go for help or information?
Anyone who is entitled to care in a MTF is eligible for medical care following a sexual assault. In addition to treatment through the MTF, military dependents may also seek medical care through a civilian hospital, pursue a law enforcement investigation of the assault, contact the Family Advocacy Program or Children's Protective Services if the sexual assault involves a minor, contact a civilian rape crisis program, or contact social work services.
Where can I find more information on the SAPR Program?
Each branch of Service has its own SAPR Office, which oversees and coordinates SAPR activities.
- DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office – The DoD SAPRO is responsible for oversight of the Department's sexual assault policy. More information is available at DoD SAPRO.
- Army SAPR Program – The Army SAPR website provides comprehensive information about sexual assault awareness, prevention, and response as well as links to relevant Army policies and regulations. More information is available at Army SAPR.
- Marine Corps SAPR Program – The Marine Corps SAPR serves as the focal point for coordinating all sexual assault prevention and response actions within the Marine Corps. More information is available at Marine Corps SAPR.
- Navy SAPR Program – The Navy SAPR Program provides a comprehensive, standardized, victim-sensitive system to prevent and respond to sexual assault Navy-wide. More information is available at Navy SAPR.
- Air Force SAPR Program – The DoD Safe Helpline provides worldwide live, confidential support, 24/7. You can access information about the prevention of and response to sexual assault on their website and by calling the hotline at 877-955-5247.
- Coast Guard SAPR Program – The U.S. Coast Guard Office of Work-Life Programs - SAPR Program provides information about the Coast Guard program, including the purpose of the program, eligibility requirements, and an explanation of services and resources available through the program. More information is available at Coast Guard SAPR.
- National Guard SAPR Program – The National Guard SAPR website offers an overview of the program mission, goals, policy, upcoming trainings, hotline numbers and other links. More information is available at National Guard SAPR.