Military sexual assault affects male and female service members and involves unwanted sexual contact, harassment, or assault. As of 2021, nearly 25% of women in the military have reported some form of military sexual assault.
Victims of military sexual assault have rights when it comes to the reporting and investigation process. Knowing these rights can help you take appropriate action.
Today’s blog from our sexual assault attorneys provides information on what constitutes military sexual assault, the options available to victims, and the rights of military sexual assault victims.
Table of Contents
Military sexual assault is a form of criminal sexual misconduct, specifically defined as any unwanted sexual contact where the perpetrator has authority or influence over the victim. Military sexual assault can occur between service members or between a service member and a civilian.
This can include:
- Sexual harassment
- Inappropriate touching
- Other forms of assault or violence
It is an offense punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military sexual assault can occur between members of the same military branch or service and civilians, between members of different military branches or services, and between members of the military and civilian personnel.
No matter what type of contact is involved, military sexual assault is a serious crime. Victims often experience extreme physical and psychological trauma due to their assault. The effects of military sexual assault can be devastating and long-lasting, but it is important to remember that you are not alone, and help is available.
In 2020, the DoD received 7,816 sexual assault reports from the US military. Of these reports, 6,290 came from service members claiming military sexual assault during periods of active-duty service. This is a 1% increase from 2019’s numbers.
According to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for Fiscal Year 2019, an estimated 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in 2018. That’s an increase of 3,000 service members since 2017. This report also found that more than half of all sexual assault victims were men.
The report also found that the most common types of sexual assault were unwanted sexual contact (37%) and sexual harassment (21%). It also reported that only 32% of incidents were reported to a military authority, indicating that the majority of service members who experienced sexual assault chose not to report it.
Victims of military sexual assault have a variety several options available to them. First, victims should always seek medical attention for any physical or mental injuries that may have resulted from the assault.
Victims who are also service members can also pursue criminal charges through the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), but they must first report the crime to their chain of command. In some cases, victims may also pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.
Victims may also report the assault to an organization such as the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO). SAPRO is dedicated to providing victims of military sexual assault with comprehensive care and resources, including legal representation, crisis counseling, and other supportive services.
Additionally, victims of military sexual assault are entitled to free legal advice and assistance from the Victim Legal Counsel program. The Victim Legal Counsel is an attorney who can provide victims with guidance and advice on their legal options.
Finally, victims of military sexual assault may also be able to access support services through non-profit organizations such as Protect Our Defenders, Service Women’s Action Network, and MaleSurvivor. These organizations provide advocacy, education, and other resources to help victims seek justice and healing.
Among the many rights that military sexual assault victims have, the most foundational are as follows:
Victims of military sexual assault have the right to:
- Seek legal representation, access medical care and counseling, access social support services, and be protected from further harassment or violence;
- Receive a military protective order or civilian restraining order to have their case adjudicated fairly, to be provided with updates on their case, to be protected from retaliation for reporting the incident, and to receive timely and appropriate treatment from their chain of command;
- Have a Victim’s Advocate assigned to them throughout the duration of the case and the right to contact Victim’s Advocates at any time;
- Request an expedited transfer if needed, as well as to receive an official copy of their investigation and court martial transcripts; and
- File a civil lawsuit in federal or state court for damages.
Consult with legal counsel, either from the Victim Legal Counsel program or your own sexual assault attorney, for your options and rights. Delaying your case can unnecessarily cost you in the long run.
Victims of military sexual assault have a right to report their abuse and seek justice. Victims should know that the Department of Defense (DoD) has created an anonymous, safe, and secure reporting system known as the Safe Helpline.
This helpline offers victims 24/7 support from trained advocates and provides information about their legal rights, how to access services and what options are available.
Additionally, military installations may have their own confidential reporting systems or resources for victims.
The DoD encourages victims of military sexual assault to report their abuse, even if it is after the fact. Victims are also encouraged to seek medical attention and evidence collection. Victims may also choose to file a report with the police, but they must remember that the Military Code of Justice has a different set of rules and procedures than civilian law enforcement.
In addition to the Safe Helpline, victims can contact a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or a Victim Advocate (VA). These professionals provide advocacy services and support to victims. The SARC can help victims understand the reporting process, discuss their legal rights, provide referral services and explain available resources.
The VA provides emotional support and can help with filing paperwork and obtaining counseling services.
Representing you optimally the first time is especially important for our sexual assault cases, no matter the origin. Contact us today to get experienced help from our San Diego sexual assault attorneys.