Responder FAQs

What are Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs)?

SARCs ensure victims of sexual assault within the DoD community receive appropriate and responsive care. SARCs manage an installation or unit’s SAPR program, serving as the single point of contact to coordinate victim care. While the SARC primarily provides management and oversight of victim services, SAPR Victim Advocates (VAs) provide direct assistance to victims and help victims navigate the military’s response system.

SARCs and SAPR VAs listen to victims’ needs and then at the victim's request, connect them with appropriate resources, including medical care, mental health care, legal advice, spiritual support, and additional command support, if needed. They support victims in decision making and ensure that service members are not left alone as they navigate the potentially complex process of reporting a sexual assault. 

If a victim files an Unrestricted Report, which will lead to a criminal investigation, the SARC will also keep the victim up to date on the progress of his or her case.

What are Responders?

SARCs and SAPR VAs are the core of the military response system, but they receive a great deal of help from other members of the team called responders. Responders may include medical personnel, chaplains, legal personnel, military police, and commanders.

What are civilian sexual assault service providers?

There are more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country that works with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to help victims of sexual violence in their communities.

All RAINN affiliates operate 24/7 crisis telephone hotlines. These affiliate centers generally offer a wide range of services, or can refer you to another local service provider, for the following:

  • Individual counseling

  • Group counseling/support groups

  • Medical attention and hospital accompaniment

  • Legal/criminal justice system advocacy

  • Crime victim assistance advocacy

  • Community education

  • Professional education

  • Casework/practical assistance

  • Emergency shelter

What are Medical Personnel?

Medical personnel are healthcare professionals who provide physical and mental health care services at military medical treatment facilities. They treat sexual assault victims both physically and psychologically.

Physicians, physician assistants, and nurses all contribute to treating injuries and managing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Specially trained nurses called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), gather forensic evidence during a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE). For more information about a SAFE, click here

Psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, social workers, counselors, and other mental health professionals assist the victim to restore his or her sense of purpose, build resiliency, and address any other issues a sexual assault victim may be experiencing.

Although medical personnel on bases and installations are authorized to take Restricted Reports, certain states mandatory reporting laws should be taken into consideration. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your states mandatory reporting laws, contact your SARC or SAPR VA.

What are Military Chaplains?

Military chaplains provide spiritual advice and counseling on religion, ethics, and morale of assigned personnel. Communication with a Chaplain is privileged, which means they are prohibited from sharing the information with anyone, and therefore they may be an additional resource for victims of sexual assault. Although a Chaplain is unable to take a Restricted or Unrestricted Report, they can support the victim as they connect with their local SARC or SAPR VA. 

What are Legal Personnel?

Judge Advocates (JAs) are military legal counsel responsible for legal matters for each Military Service. JAs are attorneys who have graduated from an accredited law school, are licensed to practice law by the highest court of a state or by a federal court, and have graduated from the Military Legal School. Their teams consist of Legal Assistance Attorneys, Trial Counsels, Victim Witness Assistance Personnel, Special Victims’ Counsel/Victims' Legal Counsel and Defense Counsels. Service members have free legal advice and assistance available to them on their base and installation. Legal advice is provided for criminal and non-criminal matters.

What is a Special Victims' Counsel/Victims' Legal Counsel?

A Special Victims’ Counsel/Victims’ Legal Counsel is an active duty Judge Advocate or civilian lawyer whose sole role is to represent victims in a confidential, attorney-client relationship, throughout the investigation and prosecution process. They provide a safe place for victims to air their concerns and receive information about the rights and protections afforded them under the law throughout the military justice process.

What are Legal Assistance Attorneys/Officers?

For non-criminal matters, the legal assistance attorney can provide significant advice that is protected by the Attorney-Client privilege, to the victims of sexual assault - or of any crime. This representation may include, explaining the Victim/Witness Assistance Program, including the rights and benefits afforded by the victims, the implications of the two types of sexual assault reporting options, the military justice system, information on restraining orders, and how to file a complaint.

What are Trial Counsels?

Trial Counsels serve as advisors to the commander and the prosecutor in a case. Trial Counsels represent the command and are not the victim’s lawyer. While Trial Counsels take great care to keep conversations private, communications between a Trial Counsel and a victim are not protected or confidential and information may be shared with the Defense Counsel.

What are Defense Counsels?

For criminal matters, the defense counsel, typically referred to as Trial Defense Attorneys and Defense Counsel, can provide advice to a Service member accused of a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that is protected by the Attorney-Client privilege as well as represent them during military justice proceedings. 

What are Victim Witness Assistance Personnel?

Without the cooperation of victims and witnesses, criminal justice systems would cease to function. Yet, the needs of victims and witnesses have not always been adequately addressed. Seeking to correct this imbalance, Congress enacted a series of laws designed to inform victims and witnesses of their rights and responsibilities in the criminal justice system; DoD has established policy in this area and directed implementation of relevant provisions of law.

A Victim Witness Assistance Program has been established within each branch of Military Service to assist victims. The program is designed and witnesses of crime and ensure that the military criminal justice system accords crime victims and witnesses their rights, without infringing on the constitutional rights of the accused.

Victim Witness Assistance personnel are appointed as members of the investigation and prosecution team, whose role is to assist the victim throughout the investigation and prosecution of an Unrestricted Report of sexual assault. They help victims understand and exercise their legal rights, understand and participate in the military criminal justice process, and obtain needed resources. This support helps minimize the risk of secondary victimization and increases the likelihood that victims will stay with the investigative and prosecution process through its conclusion. This support also helps the victim through the recovery process.

What are Military Police?

Each of the Military Services has their own Military Police Force, commonly known as Military Police in the Army and Navy, Security Forces in the Air Force, and Criminal Investigation Division in the Marine Corps. They all operate under their respective Provost Marshall and will typically investigate crimes against persons and property that are not handled by the Military Criminal Investigative Organizations (MCIO), (i.e., Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI)). Most sexual assault offenses are investigated by an MCIO.

Other typical military police officer duties may include conducting policing activities, corrections and detention operations, police and criminal intelligence operations as well as combat support operations, area security, stability and civil support operations. 

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