Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pentagon Statement: Sexual Assault in the Military

A Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson issued this statement in response to requests from Day to Day to interview a Pentagon official.

Sexual assault is a crime and is incompatible with military values. It inflicts incalculable harm on victims and their families; it tears at the very fabric of civilian and military communities; and it destroys trust among individuals and faith in our institutions.

Our policy has three major components: prevention through education and training; enhanced treatment and support of victims to speed their recovery; and accountability measures to ensure system effectiveness.

According to the Department of Justice sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in America, so DoD has emphasized reporting. We are removing barriers to reporting and creating a climate of confidence that encourages victims to come forward. For example, victims have the option of receiving complete medical care and treatment without having the crime reported to commanders and law enforcement. This responds to a Care for Victims Task Force finding that some victims would rather not receive medical care if it meant having to participate in a criminal investigation. Our training encourages people to report assaults because that is the only way to ensure that victims are treated and investigations can be initiated that will hold offenders accountable for their crimes.

Other confidence building measures include senior commander involvement; Military Criminal Investigative Office-only investigations; collateral misconduct provisions that postpone victim punishment for minor infractions until the sexual assault case is resolved (prevents the impression that the victim was punished for reporting a crime; collateral misconduct usually involves underage drinking or violating an off-limits prohibition).

Our reporting options are described below:

Unrestricted reporting resembles the previous DoD reporting policy. The victim can report sexual assaults to their chain of command, law enforcement, health care providers, sexual assault program personnel, chaplains and other officials. The victim will receive assistance from a victim advocate and complete medical care and treatment. In addition, command authorities will be notified, and Military Criminal Investigators will conduct an investigation.

Restricted reporting went into effect in June 2005, and it permits the victim to receive assistance from a victim advocate and complete medical care and treatment. However, there will be no investigation, and commanders will be notified only that an assault occurred and will be provided information only if it does not permit the victim to be identified. This provision responds to a finding that some victims preferred to receive no care if that was the only way to avoid an investigation. Victims wishing to make a restricted report must contact a sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate, chaplain or healthcare provider.

Healthcare providers will notify the SARC and NOT law enforcement when a sexual assault victim requests care. The SARC or victim advocate will notify law enforcement only if the victim opts for an unrestricted report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit