Experiencing Retaliation after Sexual Assault

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. Survivors in minority groups, including survivors of color and survivors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+), may have additional concerns about retaliation. 

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 are always available to discuss any concerns you may have about retaliation and can help explore different resources that can provide assistance.

What is Retaliation?

The term retaliation can cover a wide range of behaviors. To establish a common understanding DoD-wide, the Department of Defense developed a standardized definition of retaliation to describe the full spectrum of retaliation-related behaviors involving sexual assault and harassment in its Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy.

It is important to remember that even if you are not sure whether what you have experienced is retaliation, help and support are still available. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates (SAPR VAs), and Special Victims’ Counsel/ Victims’ Legal Counsel (SVC/VLCs) can provide you with information and education materials to familiarize you with retaliation processes and reporting procedures. To connect with any of these responders, use the Safe Helpline Responders Near Me database. 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. You can connect with Safe Helpline staff via the Telephone Helpline at 877-995-5247 or the Online Helpline.

Who can formally report retaliation?

DoD's Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy provides guidance on retaliation related to the reporting of a sexual assault by Service members, victims and their family members, bystanders who intervened, witnesses, SARCs and SAPR VAs, and first responders.

How can I report retaliation?

There are a number of ways you can report concerns about retaliation. In addition, the recent Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military recommended in their final report a “No Wrong Door” approach to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse across the Services and NGB. This ensures that service members that need assistance can get the help they need no matter where they ask for it. Although a retaliation report (DD Form 2910-2) can only be completed by a SARC or SAPR VA, all the resources listed below can provide additional assistance and support throughout the process. In addition, if you feel comfortable, you can also always connect directly with a Commander in your chain of command or outside your chain of command to discuss concerns about retaliation.

SARCs and SAPR VAs will assist you in reporting retaliation related to a report of sexual assault by documenting an official report using the DD Form 2910-2, "Retaliation Reporting Statement for Unrestricted Sexual Assault Cases." Completion of the DD Form 2910-2 can provide access to expedited transfers, military protective orders and other services available for victims of sexual assault and retaliation. Please note that SARCs or SAPR VAs are the only personnel authorized to assist you in completing this form. To make a report, you can contact your local SARC or SAPR VA. If you would like to learn more about reporting options, click here.

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.

Although USCG does not fall under DoD, members of the Coast Guard who have experienced retaliation can contact the DHS IG. DHS IG will accept retaliation complaints as falling within the scope of their responsibilities for whistleblower protection. Coast Guard members who have experienced retaliation can contact the DHS IG by calling 1-800-323-8603 (toll-free) or access the Allegation Form online.

The Service MCIOs (CID, NCIS, AFOSI) have overall investigative responsibility for retaliation that meet the threshold of a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To make a report, you can contact your Service MCIO.

US Army Criminal Investigative Unit (CID)

Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS)

Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI)

Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) professionals or advisors are command appointed staff who assist Service members with MEO complaint process for reporting of retaliation and reprisal. MEO professionals or advisors can provide you with information regarding available supportive resources and connect you with a SARC or SAPR VA who can assist with reporting retaliation related to a report of sexual assault. Contact the MEO office on your base or installation if you have questions or to report retaliation or reprisal related to a report of sexual assault.

Additional resources:  Service members may also refer to 10 U.S.C. §1034, DoD Directive 7050.06, “Military Whistleblower Protection” and the resources listed below as additional references for alternative ways to report and avenues of assistance.

What if I feel I am in an unsafe situation?

If you feel unsafe, you can report this immediately to your SARC, who will conduct a safety assessment, help you put together a safety plan, and get you immediate help. If you are in immediate danger, contact law enforcement right away.

In addition, if you are a victim of sexual assault and have filed an Unrestricted Report, you can request an Expedited Transfer to assist in your recovery and remove you from the situation, as appropriate. A SARC or SAPR VA will help you file the Expedited Transfer request with your commander. To find contact information for your local SARC or SAPR VA, visit the Responders Near Me database.

Alternative way to report or receive assistance:

  • Service IG hotline complaint (military whistleblower protections)
  • Report to a SARC at a different installation facilitated by Safe Helpline staff
  • Legal Assistance Attorney (10 U.S.C. §1044)
  • Trial counsel
  • Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) personnel assistance
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 138 - Complaints of Wrongs
  • General Officer/Flag Officer review of administrative separations
  • Special Victims’ Counsel/ Victims’ Legal Counsel

You can also share your experience directly with the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) using the 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.

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