Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program (SAPR)

The West Virginia National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is a part of the Department of Defense-wide initiative to end sexual assault in the military, and encourage Service Members to protect and defend one another against unwanted sexual contact.

The West Virginia National Guard is committed to eliminating incidents of sexual assault by instituting a comprehensive policy that focuses on increasing awareness through prevention and education, victim centered support, intimidation free reporting, thorough investigation, and accountability for those who commit sexual crimes.

SARC Message from West Virginia's Adjutant General

Reporting Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in our society and in the Military. DoD believes its first priority is to protect the victims; treat them with dignity and respect; and to provide them with the medical treatment, legal assistance, victim assistance, care, and counseling that they deserve. Under DoD's Confidentiality Policy, sexual assault victims are offered two reporting options: restricted reporting and unrestricted reporting. While the Department of Defense (DoD) prefers unrestricted reporting of sexual assaults to activate law enforcement actions, it recognizes that some victims desire only medical, legal, advocate, and support services and no command or law enforcement involvement.

DoD's Confidentiality Policy permits victims of sexual assault to report the crime to specified individuals who can then ensure the victim receives medical care, treatment and counseling without notifying command or law enforcement officials. Covered individuals include the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Victim Advocates (VAs), health care personnel and chaplains. For purposes of public safety and command responsibility, the SARC will notify the installation commander that an assault has occurred and provide details that will not identify the victim. See the Department of Defense Directive 6495.01, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program for complete details.

This policy provides victims some personal space and time and increased control over the release and management of their personal information. This hopefully empowers them to seek relevant information and support to make more informed decisions about participating in the criminal investigation. Jurisdictions with similar policies have found that confidentiality actually leads to increased reporting rates. 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 commander's ability to provide an environment which is safe and contributes to the well being and mission readiness of all of its members.

Who is eligible for a Restricted Report?

At this time only military personnel of the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard. Military personnel include members on active duty and members of the Reserve component (Reserve and National Guard).

Benefits

o You receive appropriate medical treatment, advocacy and counseling.

o Provides personal space and time to consider your options and to begin the healing process.

o Empowers you to seek relevant information and support to make more informed decisions about participating in the criminal investigation.

o You control the release and management of your personal information.

o You decide whether and when to move forward with initiating an investigation.



Limitations

o Your assailant remains unpunished and capable of assaulting other victims.

o You cannot receive a military protective order.

o You will be ineligible to request an expedited transfer away from the assailant. You will continue to have contact with your assailant, if he or she is in your organization or billeted with you.

o Evidence from the crime scene where the assault occurred will be lost, and the official investigation, should you switch to an Unrestricted Report, will likely encounter significant obstacles.

o You will not be able to discuss the assault with anyone, to include your friends, without imposing an obligation on them to report the crime. The only exceptions would be chaplains, designated health care personnel, your assigned Victim Advocate and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

o You will be ineligible to invoke the collateral misconduct provision of the Department's sexual assault policy in the event that your command learns that you had been engaged in some form of misconduct at the time you were assaulted.



Restricted Reporting Example

o Service Member Smith arrives at the base medical emergency room and reports she has been sexually assaulted. Health care personnel immediately notify the SARC and begin any appropriate emergency medical treatment.

o The SARC assigns a VA to assist Service Member Smith. The VA meets Service Member Smith at the hospital and explains the Unrestricted and Restricted Reporting options and the processes associated with each, to include applicable pros and cons. o Service Member Smith elects the Restricted Reporting option.

o Service Member Smith is asked if she would like a forensic examination, and she agrees.

o The VA advises the health care personnel that Service Member Smith has elected the Restricted Reporting option and would like a SAFE.

o Forensic evidence of the assault is collected and preserved in a non-personally identifying manner.

o The health care personnel determine and schedule follow-up medical treatment as appropriate.

o The VA advises the SARC that Service Member Smith has elected the Restricted Reporting option.

o Within 24 hours of Service Member Smith's Restricted Report, the SARC will inform the senior commander that an assault has occurred, and provide the commander with non-identifying personal information and details related to the sexual assault allegation. This information includes rank, gender, age, race, Service, date, time and/or location. Information is disclosed in a manner that preserves the victim's anonymity. Careful consideration of which details to include is of particular significance at installations or other locations where there are a limited number of minority females or female officers assigned.

o The SARC maintains information regarding the number of sexual assaults for both Unrestricted and Restricted Reports. Restricted Report numbers will be included in the annual report. The SARC will also capture trends and perform trend analysis. SARC awareness of trends will be a first line of defense against a potential serial assailant. The SARC can at any time return to Service Member Smith to ask if she is willing to reconsider her Restricted Reporting decision given the potential of a serial offender.



Who is eligible for a Unrestricted Report?

This option is recommended for victims of sexual assault who desire medical treatment, counseling and an official investigation of the crime. When selecting Unrestricted Reporting, you should use current reporting channels, e.g.:

o Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC)
o Victim Advocate (VA)
o Chaplain
o Health care personnel
o Chain of command
o Law enforcement
o Legal personnel

Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC will immediately assign a VA. At the victim's discretion or request, the health care personnel shall conduct a sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE), which may include the collection of evidence. Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know.


Investigation Process

The nature of the investigative process can be stressful for victims of sexual assault despite the sincere efforts of law enforcement, staff judge advocate and other personnel entrusted with bringing offenders to justice. Investigators must carefully collect evidence, and the process from investigation to courts martial or some other form of punishment may take many months. They must often ask you, the victim, very precise and probing questions because there usually are no eyewitnesses to provide crucial details. You may not feel you are ready to answer questions so soon after your assault, but the investigators need to interview you while your memories are fresh. Much patience will be required on your part. You will be kept well informed of any investigative actions taken in response to your reported sexual assault. Your commander will ensure, at a minimum, you receive a monthly update regarding the current status of any on-going investigative, medical, legal or command proceedings regarding the sexual assault. This requirement is in addition to those established by the Victim-Witness Assistance Program. Monthly updates are required until the final disposition of the reported assault. "Final disposition" means the conclusion of any judicial, non-judicial, and administrative actions (including separation actions and no action).


Unrestricted Reporting Example

o Service Member Smith arrives at the base medical emergency room and reports she has been sexually assaulted. Health care personnel immediately notify the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) and begin administration of any emergency medical treatment as appropriate.

o The SARC assigns a Victim Advocate (VA) to assist Service Member Smith. The VA meets Service Member Smith at the hospital, explains the Unrestricted and Restricted Reporting options and processes associated with each to include applicable pros and cons.

o Service Member Smith elects the Unrestricted Reporting option.

o The VA immediately notifies the appropriate Criminal Investigative Service and the victim's unit commander.

o Criminal investigators arrive and begin the investigation.

o Service Member Smith is asked if she would like a SAFE, and she agrees.

o The VA advises the health care personnel that Service Member Smith has elected the Unrestricted Reporting option and would like a SAFE.

o Forensic evidence of the assault is collected by health care personnel, and at its conclusion, criminal investigators take chain of custody.

o The health care personnel determine and schedule needed follow-up medical treatment.

o The VA advises the SARC that Service Member Smith has elected the Unrestricted Reporting option.

o In addition to any current existing channels of notification, within 24 hours of Service Member Smith's Unrestricted Report, the SARC will inform the senior commander that an assault has occurred, and provide the commander with the details of the assault.

o The SARC maintains information regarding the number of sexual assaults for both Unrestricted and Restricted Reports.

Restricted Report numbers will be included in the annual report. The SARC will also capture trends and perform trend analysis.

o The VA maintains communications and contact with the victim as needed for continued victim support.

Considerations When Electing an Unrestricted Reporting Decision Benefits

o Victims feel a sense of closure or healing (which aids recovery)
o Ability for Military to potentially hold the offender accountable
o Ensure the safety of others