Sexual assault victims have options
April 13, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The team at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's (USAG-HI) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program is teaching Soldiers the principles of the Army's new I. A.M. Strong sexual assault campaign.
Rooted in Army values, the campaign maintains that it is every Soldier's duty to intervene, act and motivate others to stop sexual assault. But, what should Soldiers do if they become a victim'
"Report it," according to Brenda Huntsinger, USAG-HI, sexual assault response coordinator.
Fear, shame, embarrassment, career repercussions and concerns for privacy and confidentiality are just some of the reasons Soldiers may not report sexual assault.
"Victims shouldn't sit in silence; there are choices," said Huntsinger.
The Army recently created two avenues to allow victims to feel more comfortable in reporting sexual assault - restricted or unrestricted reports.
"Policy changes now allow Soldiers to maintain confidentiality by making a restricted report," said Shannon Poppa, USAG-HI, victim advocacy/sexual assault prevention education and training specialist.
Restricted reporting allows a victim to report a sexual assault to any of several people: a garrison or unit victim advocate (VA), a sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) in garrison or downrange, a health care provider or a chaplain.
In a restricted report, a criminal investigation is not initiated, and the victim's chain of command is not notified. Victims have access to counseling, medical treatment and a forensic exam.
"Restricted reporting gives the victim time to think and figure out what step they want to take next," said Poppa. The victim decides when to move forward with an investigation, but there are limitations.
"Because there is no criminal investigation, the offender will not be held accountable, and a protective order cannot be issued," she stressed.
To ensure separation and protection from the offender through a Military Protective Order, a Soldier victim must make an unrestricted report. An unrestricted report can be made to any of the following agencies: VA/SARC, a health care provider, a chaplain, the chain of command, the military police (MP), the Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Army Community Service (ACS), the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA), 911 or Military One Source.
The victim receives medical treatment and counseling and a full investigation that enhances the opportunity to hold the offender accountable.
Poppa said unrestricted reporting has its limitations, as well.
"Once a Soldier makes an unrestricted report, they can't switch back to a restricted report," she said.
Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the U.S., and possibly the most under-reported crime in the military, according to Poppa.
Servicewide, sexual assault reports increased by eight percent from fiscal year 2007 to 2008, and by four percent Armywide.
"The increase could mean Soldiers feel more comfortable accessing services and coming forward. The Army's preference would be to see no reports and eradicate this," Poppa said.