The Navy is observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month with the theme “Courage.” This week’s focus is “Courage to Support.” If you are the victim of sexual assault, what do you do? Who can you talk to? How do you report what happened to you? This blog answers those questions, and explains your options and the support available to you.
By Teresa Scalzo
Deputy Director, Trial Counsel Assistance Program
If you are the victim of a sexual assault and believe you are in danger, call 911 immediately. If you do not believe that you are currently in danger, you should immediately contact your local sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate. They can discuss with you the different options you have to report a sexual assault and the resources available to support you. You can also contact the Department of Defense Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 or online, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
If you desire to pursue an investigation and prosecution, you can immediately report to the sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate, medical, your command or Naval Criminal Investigative Service; it is important to gather evidence as soon as possible after the crime occurs.
Any witness may also text NCIS if they want to anonymously report a sexual assault by doing the following:
- Text to 274637 (CRIMES);
- Type “NCIS” at the beginning of your text message; and
- Type and send your message including as much detail as possible to ensure the tips can effectively be investigated. You will receive a reply text with an alias code which will be your tipster identity code.
Additionally, if you have a smartphone, you can download the “Tip Submit” app.
Because these methods of reporting are anonymous, victims of sexual assault who want their case investigated should contact their sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate, their command or NCIS to make an unrestricted report.
There are two reporting options for military members and adult dependents: restricted and unrestricted.
Unrestricted reports give you access to the same support services as a restricted report, but they are fully investigated and reviewed for prosecution. Providing an unrestricted report of a sexual assault may seem intimidating; however, the sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate are there to help victims through the process, and the Navy has implemented numerous policies to ensure victim safety and support. Victims may request an expedited transfer to another command or duty station. Additionally, military protective orders are often issued against the suspect, ordering the suspect to have no further contact with the victim.
Restricted reports are kept confidential. Law enforcement is not notified. An investigation is not initiated. The command is only notified that an assault has occurred with no identifying information about the victim or suspect. You can make a restricted report to the sexual assault response coordinator or victim advocate, or medical. If you make a restricted report, you are still able to receive medical treatment, including a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination, counseling services, victim advocacy support, chaplain support and legal assistance. Note that you can always talk in confidence with a chaplain or legal assistance attorney, but that is not the same as making a restricted report.
Sexual assault victim advocates are specially trained volunteers who:
- Respond quickly to sexual assault victims
- Provide information and explain reporting options
- Accompany victims during medical, investigative and legal proceedings
- Make referrals for military and community assistance
- Help victims through overwhelming feelings
- Understand the military culture
- Help victims work through barriers and provide support
If the suspect is in the Navy, the case will most likely be investigated by NCIS, which will conduct a comprehensive investigation, including interviewing the victim and other potential witnesses. NCIS will gather any evidence from the crime scene. When the investigation is complete, NCIS will send the investigation to the suspect’s commanding officer for appropriate disposition.
Depending on the offense alleged, the commanding officer will either handle the case at his/her level or forward the investigation up the chain of command to a Sexual Assault Initial Disposition Authority, that is, a Special Court-Martial Convening Authority, which is at least a captain (O-6), for disposition. The Sexual Assault Initial Disposition Authority will, after consulting with a judge advocate, determine how the case will be handled.
Tomorrow, I’ll explain what happens when the NCIS investigation nears competition and the legal proceedings begin.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SexualAssault and #SAAPM.
More information about Navy sexual assault prevention, posters and other tools are posted to Navy Personnel Command’s Sexual Assault and Prevention website.
For help and support in dealing with a sexual assault, resources are available through:
Safe Helpline (for service members):
● Visit safehelpline.org to receive live, one-on-one confidential help with a trained professionals through a secure instant-messaging format.
● Call 1-877-995-5247 to speak with Safe Helpline staff for personalized advice and support.
● Text your location to 55247 inside the United States or 202-470-5546 outside of the United States to receive automated contact information for the sexual assault response coordinator at your installation or base. A sexual assault victim advocate may be assigned to assist you.
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network:
● Visit https://ohl.rainn.org/online/ for free, confidential and secure help that is just a click away.
● Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to speak with trained, professional counselors for advice or support.