The decision to report a sexual assault can be challenging for victims who are already struggling to cope with the trauma of the assault. Anxiety about reporting can be compounded by not knowing what to expect during the process. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates can help Soldiers understand their options as well as be a source of support to lean on.
Soldiers can reach out to their unit or any SARC or VA to report a sexual assault. SARCs provide immediate coordination for crisis support, including helping Soldiers get medical care and preserve evidence of the assault, and follow up support like connecting them to resources for their healing and recovery such as mental health counseling.
“We will be professional, open to listening, and they will definitely be heard,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandy Jackson-Frazer, a SARC at the U.S. Army NATO Brigade.
Restricted Vs. Unrestricted
Victims can report a sexual assault to law enforcement, their chain of command, SARCs or VAs. SARCs and VAs can receive a restricted report; reporting to the chain of command or law enforcement first makes the report unrestricted.
An unrestricted report serves as an official notice to law enforcement and their chain of command, who will immediately launch an investigation of the assault. SARCs will be on hand to provide advocacy, support, and coordination of resources for victims. If a Soldier wants a VA appointed to them, the VA can go with them to their appointments and be there every step of the way through the investigation and legal process, which can be lengthy.
Sgt. 1st Class Monique Oxenford, a SARC with the 4th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, wants Soldiers to know someone is on their team during the process.
“Regardless of how hard it gets, I’m there,” Oxenford said.
Reporting only to a SARC or VA (instead of chain of command or law enforcement) provides the option of filing a restricted report, which means the victim can access support services (such as medical, legal, and counseling), but law enforcement or their chain of command is not involved and there is no investigation. If they choose to switch their report to unrestricted, they will walk them through the process.
Whether a victim files a restricted or unrestricted report, and even after a legal case is closed, SARCs will ensure Soldiers don’t feel alone.
“My main concern is the victim’s safety…letting them know that I am available, I am present to assist them,” said Jackson-Frazer, “I’ll be there as a resource to support them on the road to recovery—as they transition from victims to survivors.”