New guidelines for restricted reporting of sexual assaults went into effect in U.S. Air Forces in Europe June 14.
Under the new policy, active-duty or active-reserve status Airmen, who are victims of a sexual assault, may confidentially report the assault to specified individuals without automatically initiating an investigation or having their name, or the name of their assailant, reported up through their chain of command.
The aim of the new policy is to ensure victims receive medical care and victim advocacy regardless of whether they want to report the assault and start an investigation.
“Our first concern remains the health and well-being of the victim,” said Col. Mark Ediger, USAFE Surgeon General command surgeon. “We are committed to ensuring they receive medical care and support as soon as possible.”
Under the policy, sexual assault response coordinators, healthcare providers and SARC-appointed victim advocates may receive these restricted reports. Chaplains already possess confidentiality privilege.
The SARC is a new position intended to ensure effective sexual assault response and prevention efforts.
Installation SARCs are considered the center of gravity when it comes to ensuring that victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care, said Teresa Beasley, USAFE SARC.
They will have oversight responsibility for the victim advocates, serve as chairperson of a case management group, track the dispositions of all military sexual assault cases for their designated area of responsibility, provide regular updates to the vice wing commander, and assist with training requirements.
Any report of a sexual assault made through normal reporting channels, including the victim’s chain of command, law enforcement and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, is still considered an unrestricted report.
“We want victims to know that the choice (whether or not to start an investigation) is theirs when they make a restricted report, and they don’t have to decide today,” she said. “The victim has plenty of time to make that decision; we just want to get them the help they deserve.”
Some victims do not report assaults because of the fear of operational impacts or adverse impacts on unit mission accomplishment, she said.
“People who have been raped or sexually assaulted often feel so out of control and violated that they may not trust anyone,” she said. “A lot of people don’t feel ready to make the report right after it’s happened; it’s not a good time to make a decision when you’re that stressed.”
Within 24 hours of a restricted report of an alleged sexual assault, affected commanders will be informed of the incident without personal identifying information about the victim. This will allow commanders to assess the climate of their organization while maintaining the victim’s privacy.
The KMC SARC hotline is 480-SARC (7272) or 06371-47-7272. Victims can call any time and will be forwarded to their wing’s SARC. Call the hotline for details.