What to Expect When Facing Sexual Assault Cases in the Military
If you are facing a sexual assault case, you most likely have questions; How long do sexual assault cases last? What does a case of this nature mean for my career? What are my rights in sexual assault cases? Where do I even begin?
Warning: This article contains sensitive and possibly triggering content and information.
Sexual Assault in the Military – A Continuous Problem
When it comes to this manner of crime, there are many issues that arise with it within the military. Victims in sexual assault cases in the military often do not seek the proper help, or even go through with reporting the incident. They fear the backlash, or negative repercussions that opening an investigation could cause for them. Hope is there though. Seeking help, and going through the proper steps is at the utmost importance – not only for the victim’s mental and physical health, but also to prevent further crimes on a micro and macro level.
The prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the military is a continuous issue that is unfortunately not resolved. The numbers and statistics can be quite skewed as well because a lot of cases and incidents are not even reported. Here are a handful of statistics and facts that can be checked out: Sexual Assault Cases in The Military Statistics
Solutions / Prevention
Changes need to be made. Starting first and foremost with the culture in the military surrounding how women should be treated and perceived. Also, leadership needs to be provided with the support, resources, and training to change the climate conditions behind the attitudes associated with sexual assault and harassment. Sexual assault prevention training should be among those. The assault crimes themselves should also be taken seriously, and not become minimized, or hidden.
Another necessity is to have the easiest, simple reporting process as possible. The victim should be able to obtain and keep control of the whole prosecution of the sexual assault case as well. There are some loopholes in the system that the revising of certain laws could help the victims of these cases. These loopholes and certain laws/rules can get the perpetrator off the hook after reports have been made. One of the most recent steps the DoD has put in place is, creating a sexual assault and harassment commission to review all of these factors. More about the DoD and preventing sexual assault cases in the military can be found at Federal News Network.
Revisions, changes, more training all need to put in place, but regardless of changes sexual assault victims CAN get help, and get the justice they deserve, and these sexual assault cases can be prevented.
Reporting Process of Sexual Assault in The Military
Getting help after trauma can be very challenging and difficult psychologically, mentally, and physically. It is very important, before anything else, to seek medical care as soon as possible. Right away.
After medical attention, then the decision on the type of report can be made. The unit should have a process in place for each type of reporting for sexual assault cases in the military. There are two types to choose from – restricted and unrestricted.
Hiring an attorney is the next vital step here. The victim can do this with either direction they decide to go with. If hiring an attorney is out of reach, the military can also assign you a victim advocate.
The restricted report is the option a victim has to have the incident be confidential. The benefits of this report are the victim of the sexual assault can receive personalized help. Counseling, medical care, and the military provides a victim advocate to the case. The big thing to know about a restricted sexual assault case is it does not open an investigation, or offer any type of protective order.
The restricted report will either be made with the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), or a victim advocate. They will ensure that all paperwork and the medical and counseling resources are in line, and at access for the victim. A variety of counseling will be available – chaplain, mental health, Peak Performance Center, TESSA, off base civilian counselors, etc. The victim advocate will oversee the whole sexual assault case and make sure all the proper support is being received.
A big question with the restricted report: what about legal assistance? There are options available. The first option is an SVC, or more specifically the Special Victims Counsel. This is provided and employed by the military. The SVC is a Judge Advocate attorney that is assigned to the report. They will be there to oversee meetings, have attorney-client privileges, and will be there through-out the legal proceedings. This could include OSI interviews, Article 32 Hearings, and Court Martial. The other option is hiring an outside attorney. An outside attorney may be a better idea because the attorney will always have the victim’s best interest in mind.
The second choice of reporting the incident is an unrestricted report. It is reported in a similar manner, but this report is not confidential. An investigation will begin with command and also law enforcement. All of the benefits and resources that a restricted sexual assault report provides is available with unrestricted (counseling, medical care, etc.). The biggest differences here is this can hold the perpetrator accountable, the victim can have protection via orders, and also the sexual assault is not a secret. Restitution could be available as well. Keep in mind, at any time the victim can opt to change a restricted report to an unrestricted report, in order to open an actual sexual assault case. Also, just like a in a restricted report the victim may choose to have an SVC, victim advocate, or hire their own outside attorney. All which are highly advised once an active investigation is open.
Sexual Assault Cases – The Investigation
After an unrestricted report is made this will start the investigation, and open up case for the investigation. The military has the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to handle the investigation for sexual assault cases. During this process the CID will do all they can to limit the victim having to relive the trauma. They will do interviews with possible witnesses, as well as the perpetrator. Remember the victim here has the right to have their attorney, or advocate with them during this whole process.
One concern that some have is getting in trouble if alcohol was involved, or other rules were broken. The CID will inquire about this, but they are just trying to get the whole picture of the incident. If during the assault, or harassment something like this was involved it’s known as collateral misconduct. This information is forwarded to the commander. On a case by case basis, the commander will decide whether to delay punishment, rid punishment, or have lesser punishment for the collateral misconduct.
The CID will complete their investigation process. They will then pass on the information to local and regional staff judge advocate. These SJAs should be sexual assault experts. They will then advise and meet with commanders and tell them the different punishments that are recommended. In these sexual assault cases do not forget the hired attorney is there for legal support during the investigation.
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