Sexual Assault and Rape


Sexual assault is a criminal offense. It includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (to include unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact), or attempts to commit these acts.

The DOD Definition of Sexual Assault: Intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent.

"Consent" means words or overt acts indicating a freely given agreement to the sexual contact at issue by a competent person. Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission resulting from the use of force, threat of force, or placing another person in fear does not constitute consent. A current or previous dating relationship by itself or the manner of dress of the person involved with the alleged offender in the sexual contact at issue shall not constitute consent.

Incidents of sexual assault impact mission readiness and the core values of the Navy and are punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other federal and local civilian laws. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported violent crimes.

The Navy's policy of sexual assault establishes immediate 24-hour response capability to victims of sexual assault regardless of location -ashore, afloat, or deployed to ensure timely access to services.

In FY10, the Military Services received a total of 3,158 reports of sexual assault involving Service members, which reflects a 2-percent decrease in overall reporting from FY09. Despite the small decrease in total reports this year, the trend over the previous 3 years shows that more victims are coming forward to report sexual assault than when the SAPR Program was launched in 2005. In FY 10, the Navy had 506 unrestricted reports (including reports that converted from restricted reports) of sexual assault and 142 restricted reports of sexual assault.

The victim may experience a wide range of emotions including anger, helplessness, guilt, fear, embarrassment, frustration, denial, laughter, and even a lack of emotion are common in persons who have been sexually assaulted. Every victim will react to the trauma of sexual assault in a different way and there is no standard typical response.

Research has demonstrated the following major concerns of sexual assault victims:

  • Fear the victim's family and/or loved ones will find out about the rape
  • People thinking that it was the victim's fault or in some way they were responsible
  • People outside the family will find out about the assault
  • Name publicized by the news media
  • Worry over becoming pregnant
  • Contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted disease
  • Fear of being attacked again
  • Fear they will not be believed

In many sexual assault cases, the victim knows the offender, whether an acquaintance, coworker, friend, or relative. If the victim is assaulted by someone they know they may:

  • Find people less likely to believe or understand them
  • Find it difficult to trust others
  • Be concerned about seeing the offender again
  • Be hesitant to tell others what happened
  • Be hesitant to report the crime to law enforcement

The victim will need time for emotional and spiritual healing. It is important to consider the following general points:

  • Sexual assaults are often under-reported. Estimates are that less than 15 percent of sexual assault victims report the incident to law enforcement.
  • While it is important to pursue prosecution of sexual offenders, it is equally important to respond to and care for the needs and the well-being of the victim.
  • Often therapeutic intervention and counseling can help a victim move from a crisis situation to a more empowered position. The victim can come to view holding the offender accountable for the crime as part of his or her own recovery. Assistance from service providers/agencies may help the victim cooperate with law enforcement/prosecutors and at the same time continue to move forward in the healing process.
  • It is important to provide the victim with options and choices and to assist them with making informed choices and gaining some control. The SAPR Victim Advocate and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) can help facilitate the decision making process.
  • Since more sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance or co-worker, leaders must consider the victim's concerns about returning to their job and possibly working with the alleged offender. It is highly recommended that the victim and the alleged offender work in separate locations.
  • When a victim does report a sexual assault, they often fear retaliation or retribution from the alleged offender or friends.
  • Initial post sexual assault trauma is a strong predictor of long term trauma. Interventions that can reduce trauma at the time of the medical examination might aid victims in their long term recovery.
  • Do not forget that the sexual assault victim's spouse/partner/family members/shipmates may also need support.

What Leaders Can Do to Help Support Victims of Sexual Assault

The primary concern is to ensure the proper care and response to the victim's care and response should be a coordinated effort. The SARC ensures a Sexual Assault Case Management Group is held monthly to ensure victim care and response is coordinated with the Command, SAPR Victim Advocate, Military Criminal Investigator, Military Law Enforcement, Healthcare Provider and Mental Health/Counseling Services, Chaplain, Command Legal Representative or Staff Judge Advocate. Leaders should support this effort by encouraging required members attend the Sexual Assault Case Management Group.

It is important victims are informed of their rights and speak with a SAPR Victim Advocate before speaking with anyone else. The SAPR Victim Advocate on the watch bill should be activated. Victims have the option to have a SAPR Victim Advocate to accompany them medical examination, and investigative and legal appointments. Leaders should explain the role of the SAPR Victim Advocate.

SAPR Victim Advocates may provide crisis intervention, referral and non-clinical support to include information on available options and resources. A healthcare professional that has specialty training to examine victims of sexual assault administers the forensic evaluation and medical examination. Service members may be referred to local civilian hospitals if the Military Treatment Facility (MTF) does not have the capability to provide forensic examinations. Ensure that the command and all responders know the required Navy Sexual Assault Victim Response Protocols and processes and follow standard operating procedures based upon Navy policy and directives. The CO should refer to his or her Commander's Toolkit and the Commander's Checklist to help guide the commands' actions when addressing the needs of a sexual assault victim, and the alleged offender.

The primary objective is to ensure the appropriate balance between a victim's rights and the alleged offender's right to due process under the law. Consult with the SJA for all reports of sexual assault. A coordinated team response with the SARC, Sexual Assault Case Management Group members and Command SAPR personnel will ensure appropriate response and care for victims of sexual assault.

When supporting victims, leaders also need to address the following issues:

  • First and foremost, assure the physical safety for the victim.
  • Ask if the victim would like to seek medical care. If emergency medical care is required, call 911 or your installation's emergency medical care services. If the victim requires less than emergency care, help him or her get to a medical provider as soon as possible.
  • Advise against the destruction of evidence (i.e. bathing or washing clothes) prior to the victim going to the medical facility.
  • Assist with or provide transportation to the medical facility.
  • Reinforce that the sexual assault was not the victim's fault.
  • Contact the SARC and arrange for the victim to speak with a SAPR Victim Advocate.
  • The SAPR Victim Advocate is there to support the victim and keep interaction from other command personnel to a minimum.
  • Other than safety and health-related questions, try to refrain from asking the victim for details about the incident. Show interest in what the victim says and ask what you can do to help him or her.
  • Allow the victim to exercise as much control over their situation as possible.
  • Support the victim in contacting law enforcement.
  • Report any sexual assault report to NCIS.
  • Refer to OPNAVINST 3100.6J for reporting requirements.
  • Ensure the victim is allowed time to attend necessary appointments, such as with the SAPR VA, counselor or law enforcement. Assist with administrative and logistical arrangements so that the victim can access services and receive care. Again, only inform those with a legitimate need to know why the victim is absent or requires logistical assistance. You can do this in a way that respects the victim's privacy, such as stating that he or she is handling a personal issue and needs extra time to attend important appointments. Support the victim as he or she goes through the investigation and legal proceedings. Be available to listen, and be patient with the person's duty performance as they recover from being the victim of a crime.
  • Resources for Victims of Sexual Assault

    All military services have established the position of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) who is considered the "center of gravity" for ensuring that victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care. The roles and responsibilities of the SARC include:

    • Serves as the single point of contact to coordinate and track victim care
    • Tracks disposition of all sexual assault cases from initial report to disposition
    • Provides updates to command
    • Chairs Sexual Assault Case Management Group to review cases and provide a systemic overview
    • Oversight of SAPR Victim Advocates ensures and coordinates training on sexual assault prevention and response

    Supportive services for sexual assault include advocacy, information and referral from the following agencies:

    Military Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Links

    Military Sexual Assault Resource Links

      • U.S. Department of DefenseSafe Helpline: Sexual Assault Support for the DoD Community- Operated by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the Safe Helpline website provides links to the online Helpline (live, confidential, 24/7 online support), Safe Helpline, and Info by Text, along with general information about sexual assault.
      • Military OneSource - free service provided by the Department of Defense to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns. Services are available 24 hours a day -- by telephone with professionally trained consultants and online.
      • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD - Information and resources about types of trauma, assessment for PTSD, types of treatment, self help and coping, PTSD and sexual assault, resources for family and friends, and other online resources such as informational videos, phone apps, and links.

    Civilian Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Resources

      • Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) - the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN operates both the DoD Safe Helpline and the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Their website also provides a variety of information on sexual assault statistics, the effects of and recovering from sexual assault, risk reduction tips, national and state resources, computer safety tips, and civilian reporting options.
      • Men Can Stop Rape - seeks to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men's violence against women. Their website offers a variety of resources, including downloadable handouts on a variety of topics.
      • End Violence Against Women International (EVAW) - hosts an Online Training Institute, where you can register for on-demand trainings on a variety of sexual assault topics.
      • Male Survivors: Overcoming Sexual Victimization of Boys & Men - devoted to addressing the unique needs and concerns of male victims of sexual assault through online and in-person support groups, myths and facts, discussion boards, and an online resource library.

    Legal Resources

      • - provides legal information and support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including information on Federal, State, and Tribal laws and statutes, staying safe, preparing for court and how to find a lawyer.

    Other Resources

      • Stalking Resource Center - information and resources for victims of stalking, hosted by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
      • Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) - has publications on a variety of general crime victim topics, including crime victim services, crime victimization, health, international issues, legal resources, specific populations and victim advocacy, as well as publications specifically addressing sexual violence.

    The combined services of these agencies:

    • Recognize and support the needs of sexual assault victims to assume control over their own lives
    • Address the immediate short and long term mental health impact of the trauma
    • Inform victims throughout from the initial report to final disposition and closure

    Confidentiality and Restricted Reporting Option

    The Navy and the Department of Defense are committed to ensuring victims of sexual assault are treated with dignity and respect, and provided support, advocacy, and care. Navy policy supports command awareness and prevention programs, and law enforcement and criminal justice activities maximize accountability and prosecution of sexual assault perpetrators. However, the military services recognize that mandating reporting may present a barrier for victims to access supportive services if the victim does not want command or law enforcement involvement.

    As of June 2005, all military services implemented a confidential reporting policy for reporting incidents of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault have two options for reporting: restricted or unrestricted.

    Restricted reporting allows a victim of sexual assault to disclose the details of their assault to specifically identified individuals and to receive victim advocacy and counseling without triggering the investigative process. Victims under this policy should report the assault to the installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), SAPR Victim Advocate, or healthcare provider. They may also report the assault to the chaplain. This policy is in addition to the current protections afforded privileged communications with the chaplain, and does not alter or affect those protections.

    This option of reporting will enable victims to report without having identifying information reported to the chain of command. The SARC or SAPR Victim Advocate will assist the victim with completing the Victim Reporting Preference Statement (DD2910). This form states that restricted reporting may limit the ability of the government to prosecute the offender.

    Unrestricted reporting

    A victim who is sexually assaulted and desires an investigation and command notification should use current reporting channels, i.e. chain of command, law enforcement, or he/she may report the incident to an installation SARC or SAPR Victim Advocate. Medical treatment, counseling, and victim advocacy is available for victims who have an unrestricted report. The SAPR Victim Advocate or SARC will assist the victim with completing the DD2910.

    Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know. This option will allow victims to report in an unrestricted manner so that their chain of command is aware of the incident and can react/support the victim appropriately. Unrestricted reporting allows the command more options and support the victim to include military protective orders and reassignment as appropriate.


    • OPNAVINST 1752.1B, Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) Program, SECNAV 1752.4A.
    • DOD Instruction 6495.02
    • DOD Directive 6495.01
    • Assault Victimization (2000). The National Center for Victims of Crime: Office for Victims of Crime OVC Help Series.
    • Magley, V. (2002). Coping with sexual harassment: re-conceptualizing women's resistance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 930-946.
    • Sexual Assault Victimization, Resources for information and assistance. (2000). The National Center for Victims of Crime; Office for Victims of Crime.
    • Stalking Victimization (2000). The National Center for Victims of Crime: Office for Victims of Crime.
    • Fleet and Family Support Center
    • DoD Policy Directives
    • Navy Knowledge Online (NKO)


    The following are guidelines for commands with respect to prevention and response to incidents of sexual assault within the command. This checklist incorporates elements from the Department of Defense (DoD) Commander's Checklist (Commander's Guidelines for Response to Sexual Assault Incidents) in OPNAVINST 1752.1B and Navy Inspector General Sexual Assault study recommendations. Following these guidelines ensures that commands address all areas and provide a timely and sensitive response to all incidents of sexual assault.

    Commanding Officers are responsible for ensuring a command climate that condemns sexual assault; provides victims with sensitive care, resources, and support; reports incidents of sexual assault; and holds offenders accountable for their actions.

    Commander's Checklist for Prevention and Response to Allegations of Sexual Assault - PDF

    When a Sexual Assault Occurs


    Sexual Assault

    Upon receipt of an allegation that a member of your command has been sexually assaulted, the following actions are required:

    • Ensure the physical safety and emotional safety of the victim; determine if the alleged offender is still nearby and if the victim desires and needs protection.
    • Ensure the victim receives emergency medical treatment if indicated. Encourage medical care in all other circumstances. Assist with or provide immediate transportation for the victim to the appropriate medical facility.
    • Advise the victim of the need to preserve evidence (by not bathing, showering, washing garments, etc.) while awaiting the arrival of Navy Criminal Investigation Services (NCIS).
    • Notify the NCIS as soon as the victim’s immediate safety is assured, and any emergency medical treatment is in process.
    • Strictly limit the facts or details of the incident to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know. Ensure that command protocols limit required command notification of the incident to the smallest necessary number (e.g., Command Master Chief, Executive Office, Commanding Officer).
    • Take action to safeguard the victim from any formal or informal investigative interviews or inquiries, except those conducted by NCIS or civilian law enforcement.

    Collect only the necessary information to include the victim’s identity, location and time of the incident, name and/or description of the offender(s). Do not ask detailed questions or pressure the victim for information about the incident.

    Activate the on-call victim advocate and request immediate assistance.

    • The victim advocate will ensure that the victim understands the medical, investigative, and legal process and is advised of his/her victim support rights, even if the victim ultimately declines ongoing support from the victim advocate.

    Offer to notify the duty chaplain, if the victim desires, for pastoral assistance.

    Designate a SAVI Command Liaison (formerly SAVI Command Representative) to act as the single command point of contact for the victim. All other direct contacts with the victim within the command should be kept to a minimum. The SAVI Command Liaison shall:

    • Be responsible and possess the sensitivity needed to support the victim’s needs.
    • Have direct access to the Commanding Officer.
    • Promote responsive command management and keep the victim informed of command actions in his/her case.
    • In coordination with the responsible NCIS agent and the base SARC, ensure the victim receives monthly updates regarding the status of his/her case.
    • Ensure a victim-sensitive command climate to avoid the revictimization of the victim.

    Ensure compliance with command reporting requirements, in accordance with Special Incident Reporting Requirements (OPNAVINST 3100.6H).

    • Send OPREP-3 NAVY BLUE messages for alleged rape, forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual assault incidents, OPREP-3 NAVY UNIT SITREPS for indecent assault or assault with intent to commit rape or forcible sodomy.
    • Include the regional and base commander as a copy to addressee on all sexual assault message traffic.
    • Forward monthly update reports until a final message is forwarded detailing final disposition.

    After seeking consultation from legal and the investigation team, determine if the victim desires/needs a Military Protection Order (MPO), particularly if the victim and the accused are assigned to the same command, duty location or living quarters. DD Form 2873 shall be used when a MPO is issued.

    Strongly consider temporary assignment of either the victim or accused when they are assigned to the same command, duty location or living quarters.

    • Consider both the physical and emotional well being of the victim in determining the need for temporary reassignment.
    • To the extent possible, consider the desires of the victim when making reassignment determinations.

    Guard the victim’s right to confidentiality and privacy by limiting the “need to know” personnel.

    • Be sensitive to the needs of the victim’s family.
    • As an adult, the victim must consent in writing to the release of information to anyone (including parents, friends, etc). Only in cases where the victim has suffered life-threatening injuries will the next of kin be notified without prior approval of the victim.

    Throughout the investigation, ensure the SAVI Command Liaison consults with the victim regularly. Communicate regularly with the SAVI Command Liaison to accommodate the victim’s wishes to the extent possible regarding his/her safety, health, and security, as long as a critical mission or a thorough investigation are not compromised.

    Determine how to best dispose of the victim’s collateral misconduct. Absent overriding considerations, Commanding Officer’s should consider the victim’s misconduct in context and exercise their authority to defer disciplinary actions for the victim’s minor misconduct until after the final disposition of the sexual assault case.

    Avoid automatic suspension or revocation of a security and/or personnel reliability program (PRP) clearance for a mental, emotional, or personality disorder or sexual behavior when possible, understanding that the victim may be satisfactorily treated for his/her related trauma without comprising his/her PRP status.

    • While a Commanding Officer can and should consider the negative impact of temporarily suspending a victim’s security clearance because of any collateral conduct, the ultimate determination as to whether one retains a security clearance is based on the service specific Central Adjudication Facility.

    Emphasize the availability of additional avenues of victim support. The command SAVI POC, responsible victim advocate, or base SARC can provide referral assistance to the victim.

    Ensure SAVI Command Liaison participation at installation Sexual Assault Case Review Group meetings.

    Ensure ongoing communication and coordination of actions between commands if the alleged offender is assigned to another command.

    Alleged Offender

    • Before questioning any alleged offender or discussing the case with the service member, Commanding Officers or other command representatives should first contact the legal office for guidance.
    • Avoid discussing or questioning the sexual assault allegation with the alleged offender, since doing so may jeopardize the criminal investigation. However, if questioning does occur advise the service member suspected of committing a Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) offense of their rights under Article 31 of the UCMJ, and right to defense counsel representation, before questioning or discussing the sexual assault allegations with the alleged offender.
    • .
    • Notify Navy Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) as soon as possible after receiving a report of a sexual assault incident.
    • Safeguard the alleged offender's rights and preserve the integrity of a full and complete investigation, to include limitations on any formal or informal investigative interviews or inquires by personnel other than those assigned to NCIS.
    • Strictly limit information about the investigation to those who have a legitimate reason to know.
    • Ensure procedures are in place to inform the alleged offender about available counseling support.
    • Emphasize that every alleged offender is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a trial by court-martial.
    • After seeking consultation from legal and investigation teams, determine the need for a Military Protective Order, especially if the victim and the alleged offender are assigned to the same command, duty location or living quarters.
    • Monitor the well-being of the alleged offender, particularly any indications of suicide potential, and ensure appropriate intervention occurs if indicated.
    • Ensure ongoing communication and coordination of actions between commands if the victim is assigned to another command.


    All necessary efforts should be taken to ensure that it does not become general knowledge within the command that a sexual assault has occurred. The following actions should be considered when that information becomes known within the ranks:

    • Encourage service members to be appropriately supportive of one another within the organization, to include both the victim and the alleged offender in the incident.
    • Advise those who may have knowledge of the events leading up to or surrounding the incident to fully cooperate with any investigation involved.
    • Ensure proper authorities are available to explain to witnesses the potential consequences of discussing any details related to the on-going investigation.
    • Discourage members from participating in "barracks gossip." Take action if either the victim or alleged offender reports they are being subjected to harassment, ostracism, threats, or other pressure regarding the incident from command members.
    • Consider unit SAPR refresher training; or have an outside expert address the unit regarding preventive measures, as well as some of the emotional or psychological issues that may manifest themselves and affect the command.

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