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News > Feature - Restricted vs unrestricted: Options for reporting sexual assault
Restricted vs unrestricted: Options for reporting sexual assault

Posted 5/9/2007   Updated 5/9/2007 Email story   Print story


by Kathy McCoole
Warren Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office

5/9/2007 - F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- Sexual assault continues to be one of the most under-reported crimes in America.
Since this is the case, creating a climate of confidence where victims feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual assault crimes continues to be a top priority of the Department of Defense in its fight to eliminate sexual assault crimes in the military. 

In previous years, a report of sexual assault automatically triggered a criminal investigation. Unfortunately, this did not accommodate victims who felt emotionally unprepared for criminal investigations due to fear, embarrassment, shame and the sense of violation following an assault, but significant changes in DoD policy now address this challenge. 

In June 2005, DoD initiated a policy giving victims two reporting options: restricted and unrestricted. 

Restricted reporting provides a victim the opportunity to confidentially disclose the details of a sexual assault to specified individuals and receive medical treatment and support services without triggering the investigative process. This option affords victims additional time to weigh their options and seek guidance regarding whether or not to participate in a criminal investigation. 

An unrestricted report initiates an official investigation of an alleged sexual assault using current reporting channels. Victims receive the same medical care given in the restricted option, but this option conversely notifies command authorities immediately, initiating the investigative process. 

While a restricted report can be changed to an unrestricted report, one cannot change preference selection from an unrestricted report to restricted because the investigative process has already begun. 

Sexual assault response coordinators or victim advocates advise victims on the different reporting options available, explaining the benefits and limitations of each and documenting the reporting option selected. 

A victim must acknowledge his or her reporting preference in a signed victim reporting preference statement and acknowledge that depending on the reporting option chosen, it may limit the ability of the government to prosecute the offender. The preference statement also lists the exceptions that apply to restricted reporting. 

Increasing a victim's reporting options and improving access to helpful services assists DoD in creating a "climate of confidence" where people trust the system and will respond appropriately when reporting a sexual assault and stand behind them during their recovery.

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