Restricted Reporting for Military Sexual Trauma Draws Fire

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Today, women account for 20 percent of all military personnel. But as more women enter war zones, the numbers of military sex trauma cases have risen, with women as the majority of victims. Military sexual assaults in war zones rose 26 percent from 2007 to 2008, and another 33 percent over the following year, according to annual reports from the U.S. Department of Defense.

In 2005 the Department of Defense created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), the military’s first lead office to deal strictly with sexual assault. It soon initiated a two-track sexual assault reporting policy: restricted and unrestricted. Restricted reporting allows the victim a new choice of bypassing chain of command. Instead of reporting the assault to a superior, restricted reporting permits a victim to call a sexual assault response coordinator on a hotline or tell a victim advocate, such as chaplain or health care professional. Once a restricted report is made, advocacy and counseling is initiated for the victim, but an investigation is not triggered. With unrestricted reporting, service members who desire and investigation along with health care services must notify commanding officers of the trade and whom they’re accusing. There are several glaring
drawbacks to restricted reporting. For one, the assailant goes unpunished and is capable of assaulting other victims.

To help change how the U.S. military deals with sexual assault committed within its ranks and its aftermath, Susan Burke, a highly regarded attorney, will be filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of military sexual trauma survivors. The lawsuit will ask for both damages and changes in the military’s practices.

Title: Military’s ‘Restricted Reporting’ Draws Fire
Publication: WeNews (, February 10, 2011
Author: John Lasker

Student researcher: Michelle Fielder,

Faculty Evaluator: Suzel Bozada-Deas, Sonoma State University