Victim Advocacy Program

militarydefenseattorneys9.49.26 PM copyVictim’s use of advocacy services is optional; however, commanders must ensure that victims have access to a well-coordinated, highly responsive sexual assault victim advocacy program that is available 24 hours a day/seven days a week both in garrison and in a deployed environment.

  • Garrison environment. Three echelons of sexual assault victim advocates.
  • The Installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) is responsible for coordinating the local program. The Installation SARC is a DA or contract civilian employee who works for the Family Advocacy Program Manager (FAPM) and reports directly to the Installation Commander for matters concerning incidents of sexual assault.

SARCs will:

  •  Serve as the program manager of victim support services who coordinates and oversees the local implementation and execution of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
  • Ensure overall local management of sexual assault awareness, prevention, training, and victim advocacy.
  • Oversee Victim Advocates and Unit Victim Advocates in the performance of their duties providing victim services.
  • Ensure victims are properly advised of their options for restricted and unrestricted reporting. Ensure victim acknowledges in writing his/her preference for restricted or unrestricted reporting on a DD Form 2910, Victim Reporting Preference Statement (VRPS).
  • Ensure all unrestricted reported incidents of sexual assault are reported to the first O-5 in the chain of command, CID, MPs and the Installation Provost Marshal with 24 hours of receipt.
  • Ensure that non-identifying personal information/details related to a restricted report of sexual assault is provided to the Installation Commander within 24 hours of occurrence. This information may include: rank, gender, age, race, service component, status, time and location. Ensure that information is disclosed in a manner that preserves a 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.

Victim advocates work directly with the SARC, victims of sexual assault, unit victim advocates, and other installation response agencies.

  • Installation Victim Advocates (IVAs). The IVAs are DA civilian or contract employees trained to provide advocacy services to victims of sexual assault. The IVA reports directly to the SARC for sexual assault cases.
  • Unit Victim Advocates (UVA) are Soldiers trained to provide victim advocacy as a collateral duty. There are two UVAs appointed on orders by each Battalion-level commander and trained to perform collateral duties in support of victims of sexual assault particularly in deployed environments. UVAs are supervised in the performance of their duties by the SARC. The UVA will be an NCO (SSG or higher), Officer (1LT/CW2 or higher), or Civilian (GS-9 or higher).

UVAs will:

militarydefenseattorneys9.50.13 PM copyWhen assigned by the SARC, provide crisis intervention, referral, and ongoing non-clinical support to the victim. The victim alone will decide whether to accept the offer of victim advocacy services.

Report to and coordinate directly with the SARC or designated IVA when assigned to assist a victim.

Inform victims of their options for restricted and unrestricted reporting, and explain the scope and limitations of the SARC’s role as an advocate.

If the victim chooses restricted reporting, ensure the victim is taken to a healthcare provider in lieu of reporting the incident to law enforcement or chain of command.

If victim chooses the unrestricted reporting option, UVA will immediately notify law enforcement and healthcare provider.

Safeguard documents in their possession pertaining to sexual assault incidents and protect information that is case related.

Deployed environment. Two echelons of victim advocates.

  • Deployable SARCs are Soldiers trained and responsible for coordinating the sexual assault prevention and response program as a collateral duty in a specified area of a deployed theater. There is one deployable SARC at each brigade and higher echelon. The deployable SARC will be an NCO (SFC or higher), Officer (MAJ/CW3 or higher), or Civilian (GS-11 or higher).
    • Ensure overall management of sexual assault awareness, prevention, training and victim advocacy.
    • Be trained by the Installation SARC prior to assuming duty.
    • Advise the victim on their options for restricted and unrestricted reporting. Ensure victim acknowledges in writing his/her preference for restricted or unrestricted reporting on the VRPS.
  • Unit Victim Advocates (UVA) are Soldiers trained to provide victim advocacy as a collateral duty. There are two UVAs for each battalion-sized unit.
  • The deployable SARC and the UVA must be carefully selected as they are likely to become involved in highly charged, emotionally stressful situations in assisting victims of sexual assault. As a result all candidates must be properly screened and complete training in responding appropriately to victims of sexual assault.
  • Unit commanders’ must take the following actions for unrestricted reports of sexual assault.
  • Ensure the victim’s physical safety. Ensure that victims of sexual assault receive sensitive care and support and are not re-victimized as a result of reporting the incident.
  • Collaborate closely with the SARC, legal, medical, and chaplain offices and other service providers to provide timely, coordinated, and appropriate responses to sexual assault issues and concerns.
  • Make administrative & logistical coordination for movement of victim to receive care.
  • Notify CID and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
  • Report all incidents of sexual assault to the office of the staff judge advocate within 24 hours.
  • Flag any Soldier under charges, restrain, or investigation for sexual assault in accordance with AR 600-8-2, and suspend the Soldier’s security clearance in accordance with AR 380-67.
  • Authority to dispose of cases resulting from allegations of sexual assault are withheld to the Battalion commander level and above. A commander authorized to dispose of cases involving an allegation of sexual assault may do so only after receiving the advice of the servicing judge advocate. As with any case, any disposition decision involving an allegation of sexual assault is subject to review by higher level commanders as appropriate.

The objective of SAPR training

militarydefenseattorneys9.50.54 PM copyThe objective of SAPR training is to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through a comprehensive program that focuses on awareness and prevention, education, victim advocacy, reporting, response, and follow up. There are four categories of training for the SAPR Program. The categories are Professional Military Education (PME) training, Unit Level training, Pre-Deployment training, and Responder training.

  1. PME training is progressive and sequential in areas such as (including but not limited to):
    • Initial Entry Training;
    • Pre-commissioning/Basic Officer Leadership Instruction – I (BOLC I) to include ROTC;
    • Captain’s Career Course;
    • Pre-command Course.
  2. Unit Level Training. All Soldiers will attend and participate in unit level SAPR training annually. Training will be scenario based, using real life situations to demonstrate the entire cycle of reporting, response, and accountability procedures.
  3. Pre-Deployment Training. Pre-Deployment training will incorporate information on sexual assault and response. As part of the pre-deployment training, Soldiers will be presented with information to increase awareness of the customs of the host country and any coalition partners, in an effort to help prevent further sexual assaults outside of CONUS.
  4. Responder Training. Primary responders to sexual assault incidents will receive the same baseline training throughout the DoD, to ensure that nay Service member who is assaulted will receive the same level of response regardless of Service component. Training should emphasize coordinating victim support services is a team effort and to be effective all the team members must be allowed to do their job and must understand the role of the others on the team.

First responders agencies include:

  • Healthcare;
  • MPs and CID;
  • Judge Advocates;
  • Chaplains;
  • SARCs; and
  • Installation and Unit Victim Advocates

Confidential Reporting.

Confidential Reporting allows a uniformed member of the Army to report a sexual assault to specified individuals. Confidential reporting consists of two components: Restricted and Unrestricted reporting.

Restricted Reporting. Restricted reporting allows a Soldier who is a sexual assault victim, on a confidential basis, to disclose the details of his/her assault to specifically identified individuals and receive medical treatment and counseling, without triggering the official investigative process. Soldiers who are sexually assaulted and desire restricted reporting under this policy should report the assault to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), victim advocate, Chaplain or a healthcare provider.

Restricted reporting may be made only to the following individuals:

  • The SARC
  • Healthcare Provider
  • Chaplain
  • UVA

Unrestricted Reporting.

militarydefenseattorneys9.51.07 PM copyUnrestricted reporting allows a Soldier who is sexually assaulted and desires medical treatment, counseling, and an official investigation of his/her allegation to use current reporting channels (e.g., chain of command, law enforcement, or he/she may report the incident to the SARC or the on-call Victim advocate). Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC will immediately notify a victim advocate. Additionally, with the victim’s consent, the healthcare provider shall conduct a forensic examination, 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.

  • Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE). If a DoD healthcare provider is not available, the victim will be appropriately referred to a civilian provider for the forensic examination, if the victim requests such a forensic examination.
  • Whenever possible, military installations should have established formal memoranda of understanding (MOU) with military facilities or off-base non- military facilities for the purpose of conducting sexual assault examinations.
  • The SARC or victim advocate will ensure that a victim is aware of any local or state sexual assault reporting requirements that may limit the possibility of restricted reporting, prior to proceeding with the SAFE at the local off-post non-military facility.
  • Restricted Report Case Number (RRCN).

Each Military Service will designate a military agency to generate an alpha- numeric RRCN, unique to each incident, that will be used in lieu of personal-identifying information to label and identify the evidence collected from a SAFE (i.e., Sexual Assault Evidence Collection kit (SAE kit), accompanying documentation, personal effects, clothing).

Upon completion of the SAFE, the HCP will package and label the evidence with the RRCN and notify the service-designated military agency trained and capable pf collecting and preserving evidence, to assume custody of the evidence using established “chain of custody” procedures. MOUs with off- post non-military facilities should include instructions for the notification of a SARC, receipt and application of a RRCN and disposition of evidence back to the military agency. The RRCN and general description of the evidence shall be entered into a log to be maintained by the military agency.

One year storage period.

  • Thirty days prior to the expiration of the one-year storage period, the military agency shall notify the appropriate SARC that the one year storage period is about to expire. The SARC shall notify the victim accordingly.
  • If a victim does not desire to change to an unrestricted report and does not request the return of any personal effects or clothing maintained as part of the evidence prior to the expiration of the one- year storage period, in accordance with established procedures for the destruction of evidence, the military agency shall destroy the evidence maintained under the victim’s RRCN. The evidence shall similarly be destroyed if, at the expiration of one year, victims do not advise the SARC of their decision or the SARC is unable to notify a victim because the victim’s whereabouts are no longer known.
  • If, at any time, a victim elects to change their reporting preference to the unrestricted reporting option, the SARC shall notify CID, who will then assume custody of the evidence maintained by the RRCN from the military agency under established chain of custody procedures.

Confidential Communication.

  • Regardless of whether the Soldier elects restricted or unrestricted reporting, confidentiality of medical information will be maintained IAW current guidelines on Health Information Privacy Portability Act (HIPPA).
  • In cases where a victim elects restricted reporting, the SARC, assigned VA (whether uniformed or civilian), and healthcare providers may not disclosed covered communications to law enforcement or command authorities, either within or outside DoD, except as provided in the exceptions below.
  • Covered communications are oral, written or electronic communications of personally identifiable information made by a victim to the SARC, assigned VA or to a healthcare provider related to the sexual assault.
  • In the event that information about a sexual assault is disclosed to the commander from a source independent of the restricted reporting avenues, or to law enforcement and law enforcement from other sources, the commander will report the matter to law enforcement and law enforcement remains authorized to initiate its own independent investigation of the matter presented.
  • Additionally, a victim’s disclosure of his/her sexual assault to persons outside the prospective sphere of persons covered by this policy may result in an investigation of the allegations.
  • This SAPR policy does not create any actionable rights for the alleged offender or the victim, nor constitute a grant of immunity for any actionable conduct by the offender or victim. Covered communications that have been disclosed may be used in disciplinary proceedings against the offender or the victim, even if such communications were improperly disclosed.

Improper disclosure of covered communications, improper release of medical information, and other violations of this policy are prohibited and may result in discipline under the UCMJ, loss of credentials, or other adverse personnel or administrative action.

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:

  1. Command officials or law enforcement when disclosure is authorized by the victim in writing.
  2. Command officials or law enforcement when disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the victim or another.
  3. 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 disability retirement determination.
  4. SARC, VAs or healthcare provider when disclosure is required for the supervision of victim services.
  5. Military or civilian courts of competent jurisdiction when disclosure is ordered by or is required by federal or state statute. SARC, VAs, and healthcare providers will consult with the servicing legal office in the same manner as other recipients of privileged information to determine if the criteria apply and they have a duty to obey. Until those determinations are made, non-identifying information should only be disclosed.

Collateral Misconduct of Victim. In unrestricted reported sexual assault cases where there is evidence of collateral victim misconduct, to prevent the erroneous perception that the Department of Defense views a victim’s collateral misconduct as more serious than the crime of sexual assault, commanders should defer disciplining the victim for the victim’s misconduct until all investigations are complete and the sexual assault allegation has been resolved, unless extenuating or other overriding circumstances make delay inappropriate in the judgment of the commander and/or legal counsel.

Additionally, for those sexual assault cases for which command action on victim’s collateral misconduct is deferred, Military Service command action reporting and processing requirements should take such deferrals into consideration and allow for the time deferred to be subtracted from applicable metrics and processing times.

Commanders and judge advocates must also be mindful of any potential statue of limitations when determining whether to defer action.

Administrative separations.

  1. militaryucmjdefenselawyer89GCMCA lowest separation authority for cases involving Soldiers who filed an unrestricted report of sexual assault in the last 24 months.
  2. When initiating an administrative separation on any Soldier for any reason (voluntary or involuntary), include on the Notification / Acknowledge / Election of Rights form:
    • Whether the Soldier filed an unrestricted report of sexual assault in the last 24 months.
    • Whether the Soldier does / does not believe that this separation is a direct / indirect result of the sexual assault.
  3. If the separation appears to be in retaliation for the Soldier filing an unrestricted report of sexual assault. If so, consult with the JA.
  4. If the separation involves a medical condition that is related to the sexual assault, to include PTSD. If so, consult with the appropriate medical personnel.
  5. If the separation is in the best interests of the Army, the Soldier, or both. If not, consult with the JA.
  6. The status of the case against the alleged offender, and the effect of the Soldier’s (victim’s) separation on the disposition or prosecution of the case. If the case is still open, consult with the servicing CID unit and JA.

Essential Training Tasks for Judge Advocates.

All judge advocates shall receive training at initial military legal and periodic refresher training on the DoD and Army Sexual Assault Response Policies:

  1. Confidentiality Policy Rules and Limitations.
    • Use of “restricted” reports by command, investigative agencies, trial and defense counsel.
    • Relationship of “restricted” reports to MREs. The SAPR policy does not create any privileges outside of those already contained in the MREs (e.g., MRE 503 and MRE 513).
  2. Victim Rights:
    • Familiarity with VWAP.
    • VWAP challenges in the deployed environment.