HEIDELBERG, Germany (March 2, 2010) - A six-month pilot program, that began March 1, is now giving adult civilian beneficiaries of the military healthcare system in U.S. Army Europe the option to file a restricted report for sexual assaults.

Restricted reporting allows victims to confidentially report the sexual assault and seek appropriate medical care and advocacy services without triggering a criminal investigation, according to Department of Defense policy. Servicemembers have had this option for some time, but not civilians.

Army civilians had been limited to unrestricted reporting, which allows victims to still seek appropriate care and services while immediately initiating an official investigation of the sexual assault.

USAREUR Commander Gen. Carter F. Ham gained approval for an exception to current Department of Defense policy that prevents non-servicemembers who report sexual assault through military channels from filing a restricted report.

Ham pointed out in his request that civilian beneficiaries in the states have many options to seek any medical care and advocacy help through their civilian community without having to involve either military or civilian law enforcement or the judicial process.

"This is not true in Europe," Ham said. "While initial medical treatment may be received at host-nation facilities, follow-on services must be obtained through the military healthcare system, even if only for referrals to host-nation assets. As a result, civilian victims of sexual assault are forced to choose to endure the investigative process of an unrestricted report or to forego vital treatment in exchange for confidentiality.

"I really think we need to eliminate this inconsistency," he said.

Sexual assaults can be reported by contacting installation sexual assault response coordinators known as SARCs, victim advocates, healthcare providers, or chaplains.