The Department of Defense announced today a new policy that establishes Department guidelines for confidential, restricted reporting by victims of sexual assault.
Restricted reporting allows a sexual assault victim, on a confidential basis, to disclose the details of his/her assault to specifically identified individuals and receive medical treatment and counseling, without triggering the official investigative process.
Through our research, we have learned that providing confidentiality to victims will actually increase the probability that cases will be reported, cases that are currently unknown to us, said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu. While we want to sustain good order and discipline by holding those who assault their fellow service members accountable for their actions, first and foremost we want victims to come forward for help.
Many experts claim that sexual assault is the most under-reported violent crime in the nation and in the military. Many victims are unprepared to withstand the rigors of a full-fledged investigation immediately following their assault. Rather than comply with the Departments former policy of mandatory reporting, some victims did not seek treatment, thereby denying themselves access to needed medical services and support.
Restricted reporting is intended to give a victim additional time and increased control over the release and management of his/her personal information, and to empower him/her to seek relevant information and support to make more informed decisions about participating in a criminal investigation. A victim who receives appropriate care and treatment, and is provided an opportunity to make an informed decision about a criminal investigation, is more likely to develop increased trust that his/her needs are of primary concern to the command and may eventually decide to pursue an investigation. Even if the victim chooses not to pursue an official investigation, this additional reporting avenue gives commanders a clearer picture of the sexual violence within their command, and enhances a commanders ability to provide an environment, which is safe and contributes to the well-being and mission-readiness of all of its members.
The Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (JTF-SAPR), in conjunction with the Military Services, will coordinate specific implementation details. The magnitude of this change requires extensive, in-depth training for all DoD personnel and specialized training for commanders, senior enlisted advisors, investigators, healthcare providers and others involved in sexual assault response.
To ensure consistent application across the military services, the confidentiality policy will become effective 90 days from the date the memorandum to the military departments was issued, which was Mar.16 2005.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense will be working closely with the military departments to implement the policies in an effective and timely manner. The joint task force will continue to provide oversight of the process. The policy memorandum can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2005/d20050318dsd.pdf.