What is Victim Care?
Victim care is meeting victims where they are and supporting them through their healing journey. At the heart of the sexual assault response team helping to provide victim care in the Department of Defense are the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and SAPR Victim Advocates (VAs). Every military installation in the world, both CONUS and OCONUS, has SARCs and SAPR VAs who provide a human element to the Department’s response. They explain reporting options, available services, and resources that can assist with navigating the military justice process. They provide victims with three fundamental principles of care: safety and security, an opportunity to be heard and to be validated, and the ability to discuss what may lie ahead and be prepared for it.
First, a victim needs to feel safe. SARCs and SAPR VAs work with victims and others, as needed, to identify and address issues related to their physical safety, as well as concerns about revictimization by the perpetrator or others who might retaliate against the victim for making a report.
Second, a victim needs to discuss their needs and evaluate their options freely and openly. Although they are not therapists, SARCs and SAPR VAs are trained to be attentive listeners and have knowledge about available resources and the reporting process. Their job is not to gather details about the assault, but rather to validate victims’ reactions to and feelings about the incident in a non-judgmental way as well as provide a safe place for victims to explore all their options.
Finally, in addition to knowing their options, victims need to know their legal rights, and what actions will likely follow a report. SARCs and VAs explain what is likely to occur after making a report and how it may affect the victim
How Does the Department of Defense (DoD) Provide Victim Care?
When the Department adopted the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Policy in 2005, it used existing practices from the civilian community as a framework to shape the military’s response system. This system is comprised of professionals from several disciplines who work as a team to provide expert care for victims of sexual assault worldwide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What Role do Commanders and Senior Enlisted Personnel Serve?
Commanders and senior enlisted personnel serve a vital role in victim care and have a responsibility to support sexual assault victims within their units, at all levels.
Commanders set the tone and expectations for their units and a commander’s commitment to SAPR policies and programs demonstrates firsthand the Department’s resolve to prevent sexual assaults and reduce the fear and stigma associated with reporting.
Commanders also play a crucial role in the military response system by holding military offenders accountable. In civilian communities, police and prosecutors exercise discretion in deciding whether an offense should be charged and offenders punished. In the military, commanders make this decision. Once the investigation is complete, the commander must make a decision about how to dispose of the case. Throughout the investigation, the commander has a Trial Counsel available to assist and provide advice. With the assistance of his/her lawyer, the commander decides whether a case will be dismissed, resolved administratively, resolved through nonjudicial punishment or referred to trial, and what the charges will be.
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