Resources for DOD Victims of Sexual Assault and Harassment

RESOURCES FOR DoD VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT

Below are a list of service-agnostic, location-agnostic services that every servicemember should have access to. When I use the phrase “make a report of sexual assault”, I mean that the victim has signed a DD 2910 (DoD’s sexual assault reporting form) and elected a restricted or unrestricted report. The Army’s SHARP program takes reports on both sexual harassment and sexual assault; the other services use their SAPR offices for sexual assault, and their EO offices for sexual harassment. This document is heavily focused on sexual assault resources, but most of the resources can also be applied to sexual harassment; Coast Guard should be able to make use of most of these resources as well.  If you as a victim have any doubt about whether what you went through is harassment or assault, please talk with your local SHARP/SARC first; if you don’t know their number, find it on https://www.safehelpline.org/. For quick reference, an image of sexual assault reporting options is attached (Image 2, Sexual Assault Reporting Options)

LOCAL & NATIONAL DoD RESOURCES (alphabetically listed).

CID/NCIS/OSI. These are each service’s investigative agencies; sexual assault victims can report directly to them if they know they want an investigation into their assault. CID/NCIS/OSI should immediately check with the victim to see if the victim wants SAPR services and/or SVC services. CID/NCIS/OSI are mandatory reporters; they will open an investigation, and notify the victim’s chain of command that their troop has reported a sexual assault.

Chaplain. 100% confidentiality policy, the strongest in the DoD; consider using them if you’re on the fence about making a report at all. They should also be trained on SAPR resources, and can also educate you on resources available to you. Chaplains can’t take a report of sexual assault, but they can help you during the process, and they work closely with the SARC/SHARP. They are NOT mandatory reporters to law enforcement.

Commander’s 30-Day Checklist for Unrestricted Reports. This document is guidance for unit commanders whose victims have filed unrestricted reports; it contains must-haves, suggestions, and best practices. This document is a good roadmap for everyone to review, and for every officer who might be a commander to read and know. It’s located on the Command Toolkit page of the DoD’s SAPR website; there are other useful documents there. https://www.sapr.mil/command-toolkit

DoD’s SAPR Website. This is a comprehensive site containing all of DoD’s policies, reports, and documents for sexual assault. This isn’t for emergency support, this is for policy guidance research. https://www.sapr.mil/

DoD Safe Helpline. 877-995-5247; https://www.safehelpline.org. Sexual assault support for DoD members; they will help you find local resources. They are NOT mandatory reporters to law enforcement, but they will let your local SAPR/SHARP office know that they received a call from someone at their location, if you identify yourself. They will help you find your local SAPR/SHARP’s hotline!

Military Equal Opportunity (MEO)/Equal Opportunity (EO) Offices. These offices are a good touchpoint for information about/if you want to file a report regarding sexual harassment. If you have been sexually assaulted, please contact your SHARP/SARC, not MEO/EEO.

  • Air Force Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Hotline is available 24 hours a day. You can reach the hotline by calling 1-888-231-4058. Air National Guard members can also contact the National Guard EO hotline at 703-607-5462 or 1-800-371-0617.
  • Navy/Marine Adviceline: 800-253-0931 or 901-874-2507 (8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT) DSN: 882-2507 The advice line is manned by Navy Personnel Command staff and provides any personnel, civilian or military, to anonymously request advice concerning sexual harassment and equal opportunity issues.
  • Army: In this service branch, SHARP handles both sexual harassment and sexual assault for military members; civilians file a complaint through their EEO. More info here: https://www.sexualassault.army.mil/what_to_do_harassment.aspx

Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC). These are active duty judge advocates whose sole role is to represent sexual assault victims in a confidential, attorney-client relationship, throughout the investigation and prosecution processes.  Victims don’t have to decide to get one right away, but if you would like to have an attorney assigned to you, please let your SARC know so they can refer you. SVCs are not always co-located with victims.

The SVC will go over the full scope of their representation the first time they meet with their client. SVCs can provide advice to clients and advocate their interests to trial counsel, defense counsel, and commanders. SVCs can attend the interviews victims have with investigators, trial counsel, and defense counsel. SVCs can explain questions their clients have about the investigation and military justice processes; they can also help their client disengage from the investigation if the client no longer wants to cooperate with the investigation. SVCs can help protect victims’ privacy interests. SVCs can’t take reports of sexual assault, but if you contact them first, they will help you find a local resource with whom you can file a report. SVCs have attorney-client privilege with their client.  

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SHARP/SAPR). This is each DoD location’s one stop shop for sexual assault assistance, and for Army personnel, for sexual harassment assistance as well. This office can give advice on specific situations, assist personnel with making restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault, and refer victims to any other services that they might need (mental health, medical, chaplain, ect). This office also manages the location’s victim advocates; every client is able to have a victim advocate assigned to them if they want. That person’s communications with them about the sexual assault are covered under MRE 514 privilege, and that advocate is able to accompany them to medical exams, interviews, legal appointments, and the trial, as requested by the victim. The victim may request a different advocate if the one assigned to them isn’t working out. The victim may also elect to not receive SAPR/SHARP services at all. SAPR/SHARP are not mandatory reporters except for specific situations (to include threats of harm to self and harm to others); those situations are listed on the DD 2910, as “exceptions to restricted reporting”. For our Airmen specifically- being in PRAP (PRP or AUoF) doesn’t preclude you from being able to make a restricted report; for any other troops who are concerned that they’re not able to make a restricted report, please seek out your local SARC/SHARP for assistance. This should be a sexual assault victim’s first stop if they don’t know what to do/if they’re eligible to report/if what happened to them is harassment or assault. If you don’t know your location’s 24/7 SAPR hotline, please consult https://www.safehelpline.org/, it should be registered there.

  • Note on CATCH: your SAPR office can also educate you on the CATCH program, which is a way for victims who file a restricted report of sexual assault to see if their assailant may be a serial offender. Please read more about this program in the attached graphic (Image 1, CATCH), and this link: https://www.sapr.mil/CATCH.

Unit Commander/Chain of Command. Every troop has the right to report their sexual assault to their chain of command; this will open an investigation (the unit commander is a mandatory reporter for their troops; they have to report allegations of assault to their local CID/NCIS/OSI to open an investigation).

MEDICAL RESOURCES (alphabetically listed).

DoD Mental Health. Services will vary depending on location and the service of the mental health clinic (Army/Navy/ect). Mental Health clinicians can’t take a report of sexual assault, but they can help you during the process, and can point you towards your local SARC/SHARP. They are generally NOT mandatory reporters, but may be required to report specific situations depending on what state they’re located in; please verify with your local location. They should also be referring any of their clients who are victims of sexual assault to the local SHARP/SARC, if that person hasn’t filed a report, to ensure that the victim understands their reporting rights.

DoD Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner/Civilian Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner. Each DoD location should have either a location on post that can conduct a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE), or an MOU with a local hospital that conducts them. The personnel who do these exams have a variety of titles- SANE, SAFE, SAMFE are common. These medical personnel are specially trained to treat sexual assault victims, and take evidence from their bodies. At DoD hospitals, victims are able to maintain their restricted reporting option and still receive a SAFE exam. At civilian hospitals, victims are usually able to maintain their right to restricted reporting, but are sometimes beholden to the laws of the state in which they’re location; victims should call their base’s 24/7 SAPR hotline to receive accurate advice on where they should go for their SAFE exam, and they can be accompanied by a victim advocate if they want (some civilian hospitals even have their own victim advocates). These exams frequently take several hours; the current recommended timeline is to get one within 5 days of the assault.

Give an Hour. Give an Hour is a nationwide program that provides free mental health services to current and former servicemembers and military families, and has several military programs, including the Reserve Component Program, the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, the Wounded Warrior Project Grant, Onward Veterans, and a Department of Veterans Affairs partnership. You will receive free civilian therapy through this resource. https://giveanhour.org/category/resources/milvetresources/

NATIONAL/NON-DOD RESOURCES (alphabetically listed).

Local Law Enforcement. If the assault occurred off-post, the victim can report to local law enforcement. If there is a “military nexus”, i.e. both the victim and the subject are military, local law enforcement will sometimes turn the case over to CID/NCIS/OSI, or those organizations will sometimes run a parallel investigation. Going to local law enforcement doesn’t prevent the military from getting involved in the investigation.

Local Victim Advocacy Services. Many DoD locations are near civilian advocacy services for sexual assault victims. If the victim doesn’t want to receive DoD services (i.e. assistance from their service’s SHARP/SARC), they can seek local advocacy instead of or in addition to their service’s SAPR services. Sometimes local advocacy services will have small counseling sessions, offer free one-on-one counseling, or offer online counseling; most of them also have a 24/7 hotline, and can accompany victims to SAFE exams if the victim wants.

Protect Our Defenders (Services Roster).  This organization has an excellent index of support agencies for a variety of services related to sexual assault; please use the search function to find what you’re looking for. https://www.protectourdefenders.com/help-for-survivors/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please call this if you need to; they have online counselors that you can chat with as well. 1-800-273-8255, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). This is the US’s largest anti-sexual violence organization; they provide and help victims find services, have a 24/7 hotline (1-800-656-4673), have counselors available to chat online 24/7, and also offer educational and volunteer opportunities. They can also help you find local civilian resources. https://www.rainn.org/

RESOURCES IF THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED YOU (listed in escalating order).

DoD Safe Helpline Retaliation Page. If you’re not sure if what you’re experiencing is retaliation, or you want to make an anonymous report of your experience, you can do so here. https://www.safehelpline.org/experiencing-retaliation-after-sexual-assault

Local IG. If you feel that you’ve been the victim of retaliation (which includes reprisal, ostracism, cruelty, and other maltreatment) due to reporting a sexual assault, you can make a report to your local IG. Please note that if you go to IG regarding a restricted report of sexual assault, they will notify your chain of command and local CID/OSI/NCIS of the sexual assault; they are mandatory reporters.

MAJCOM/HHQ/COCOM IG. This option is best for if you’ve tried to use local IG, and the results of their retaliation investigation were not satisfactory. Contact info will vary depending on MAJCOM/HHQ/COCOM. They are mandatory reporters.

DoD IG.  This is the highest IG office in the DoD; you can file a complaint with them at any point. Please see this page for instructions. They are mandatory reporters. http://www.dodig.mil/Components/Administrative-Investigations/Whistleblower-Reprisal-Investigations/Whisteblower-Reprisal/

Congressional Complaint. It is your right as a US citizen to file a complaint with your congressman/woman. Please see this link for more info and instructions. They are mandatory reporters. https://girightshotline.org/en/military-knowledge-base/topic/grievances-congressional-assistance

Protect Our Defenders. Protect Our Defenders is an organization that provides free legal and other assistance for military sexual assault survivors, including active-duty service members, veterans, and civilians. They have a history of taking on cases that were not handled properly by the military justice system. https://www.protectourdefenders.com/