Experiencing retaliation after reporting a sexual assault can be as traumatic as the assault itself. It takes courage to make a sexual assault report and to share what happened to you with others. No one deserves to experience retaliation for reporting a heinous crime, and there are legal measures in place to support and protect you if this has occurred or is still occurring. Safe Helpline staff is always available to discuss any concerns you may have about retaliation and can help explore different resources that can provide assistance.
What is Retaliation?
Experiences that may be considered retaliation can vary. It is important to remember that even if your experiences don’t match one of these definitions, help, and support are still available. The Department of Defense defines retaliation regarding sexual assault and harassment in its Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy as the following:
Reprisal: Taking or threatening to take an unfavorable personnel action, or withholding or threatening to withhold a favorable personnel action, for making, preparing to make, or being perceived as making or preparing to make a protected communication. Examples of reprisal may include:
- promotion interference
- unwarranted disciplinary or other corrective action
- punitive transfer or reassignment
- unfavorable performance evaluation not supported by performance
- unfair decision on pay, benefits, awards, or training; non-indicated referral for mental health evaluation
- other significant downgrades in duties or responsibilities inconsistent with the military member’s grade
Ostracism: Wrongfully excluding a military member from social acceptance or membership in (or association with) a group of which such military member was a part or a reasonable person would conclude wanted to be a part, with the intent to inflict emotional distress on the military member and/or discourage reporting of a criminal offense because the perpetrator knew or believed that the member reported or was planning to report a criminal offense. Examples of ostracism may include:
- improper exclusion from social acceptance, activities or interactions
- denying the privilege of friendship due to reporting or planning to report a crime
- laming and/or subjecting to insults or bullying
Cruelty, Oppression, or Maltreatment: Acts of cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment are committed against an individual because the individual reported a criminal offense or was believed to have reported a criminal offense when such acts are taken by those to whose orders the individual is subject. Cruelty, oppression, and maltreatment are acts that occur without a valid military purpose and may include physical or psychological force or threat or abusive or unjustified treatment that results in physical or mental harm.
Note: You can learn more about the DoD’s Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy and Implementation Plan here.
How can I report retaliation?
Acts that may be considered retaliation can fall under the purview of your command, the DoD Inspector General, or Law Enforcement. and may require a criminal investigation. Safe Helpline staff can help explain the different options and resources available, provide support, and help you develop a plan to stay safe if needed. There are a number of ways you can report concerns about retaliation.
Safe Helpline Military Feedback Form: This form goes directly to DoD SAPRO and is an opportunity for individuals to provide feedback, both positive and negative, regarding their experience. You can complete this form anonymously or provide as little or as much personal information as you would like. If you provide information regarding an experience of retaliation as well as your contact information, the information will be provided to the DoD Inspector General. If you are a member of the Coast Guard, any report of retaliation made to DoD SAPRO using this form that includes your personal contact information will be sent to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Washington Field Office (WFO).
DoD Inspector General (IG): The DoD IG has overall responsibility for the Department's Whistleblower Protection Program and handles all reprisal complaints that involve allegations of sexual assault in the Department of Defense. To make a report, you can click here to submit a form directly to the DoD IG.
Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Washington Field Office (WFO): Members of the Coast Guard who have experienced retaliation can report directly to CGIS's WFO by calling 571-228-5414. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) IG will also accept retaliation complaints as falling within the scope of their responsibilities for Whistleblower protection. Call 1-800-323-8603 (toll-free) or access the Allegation Form online.