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Restricted Reporting Policy for Incidents of Domestic Abuse
The DoD is committed to ensuring victims of domestic abuse are protected, treated with dignity and respect, and provided support, advocacy, and care. DoD policy also strongly supports effective command awareness and prevention programs and law enforcement and criminal justice activities that will maximize accountability and prosecution of perpetrators of domestic abuse. To achieve these dual objectives, the DoD policy prefers that personnel report suspected domestic abuse incidents promptly to activate both victims’ services and accountability actions. However, a requirement that all domestic abuse incidents be reported can represent a barrier for victims hoping to gain access to medical and victim advocacy services without command or law enforcement involvement.
In order to address these competing interests, the Department of Defense issued a new instruction, DoD Instruction 6400.06 providing victims of domestic violence two reporting options: unrestricted reporting and restricted reporting.
Unrestricted Reporting. Victims of domestic abuse who want to pursue an official investigation of an incident should use current reporting channels, e.g., chain of command, Family Advocacy Program (FAP), or law enforcement. Upon notification of a reported domestic abuse incident, victim advocacy services and FAP clinical services will be offered to the victim. Additionally, at the victim’s discretion/request, the healthcare provider shall conduct any forensic medical examination deemed appropriate. Details regarding this incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know.
Restricted Reporting. In cases where an adult victim elects restricted reporting, the victim advocate and healthcare providers may not disclose covered communications (defined in the policy memorandum) to either the victim’s or offender’s commander or to law enforcement either within or outside DoD, except as provided by exceptions within the policy memorandum.
- Restricted reports must be made to one of the following individuals:
- Victim advocate or healthcare provider (defined in the policy memo);
- Supervisor of victim advocate;
Exceptions to Confidentiality.
In cases in which victims elect restricted reporting, the prohibition on disclosing covered communications is waived to the following persons when disclosure would be for the following reasons:
- Named individuals when disclosure is authorized by the victim in writing.
- Command officials and law enforcement when necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the victim or another person.
- FAP and any other agencies authorized by law to receive reports of child abuse or neglect when, as a result of the victim’s disclosure, the victim advocate or healthcare provider has a reasonable belief that child abuse has also occurred. However, disclosure will be limited only to information related to the child abuse.
- Disability Retirement Boards and officials when disclosure by a healthcare provider is required for fitness for duty for disability retirement determinations, limited to only that information which is necessary to process the disability retirement determination.
- Supervisors of the victim advocate or healthcare provider when disclosure is required for the supervision of direct victim treatment or services.
- Military or civilian courts of competent jurisdiction when a military, Federal, or State judge issues a subpoena for the covered communications to be presented to the court or to other officials or when required by Federal or State statute or applicable U.S. international agreement.