Of the women who experienced unwanted sexual contact while in the military, only 17 percent reported the event to a military authority or organization and 16 percent reported to civilian and military authority/organization. (DMDC, 2013). Of the men who experienced unwanted sexual contact, only 10 percent reported the event to a military authority/organization and only nine percent reported to both a civilian and military authority/ organization (DMDC, 2013).
A number of reasons may play a factor in survivors of sexual abuse in the military choosing to remain silent including:
- Fear that their report would not be kept private
- Possible demotion, punishment, or discharge following their report of sexual violence, while the person who committed the sexual assault received lesser and sometimes no punishments at all (Block, 2003)
- Worry that their report will be blamed for a breakdown of unit cohesion (DTFSAMS, 2009).
Since October 2005, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) has been the organization responsible for the oversight of the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Policy.
There are key roles involved in sexual assault response that are the same across the military services. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) is the “single point of contact” in coordinating victim care from initial report to resolution of the victim’s health and well-being. There are SARCs and SAPR victim advocates in each brigade or equivalent unit level (DOD, 2013b).
The SARC also works with the command and first-response groups to address hurdles to victims’ services and increase the likelihood that the person who committed the sexual assault will be held accountable. Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) is the first to take action and is responsible for notifying a SAPR victim advocate.
Once a victim makes a decision to report a sexual assault, he or she can speak with a SARC, victim advocate, or health care personnel (DOD, 2012b). If a disclosure is made to a health care provider, a SARC or victim advocate will be notified (DOD, 2012b). Once a connection is made with a SARC or victim advocate, they will assist the victim in completing an official form called the Victim Reporting Preference Statement (VRPS). The VRPS details the reporting options, explains the limitations and provides the victim with the power to consent to either a restricted or an unrestricted report.