Department of the Navy implements policy to protect sexual assault victims from discipline

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Posted at 8:29 AM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-10 08:29:40-04

Following the implementation of the "No Wrong Door" policy in late June, the Department of the Navy implemented a Safe-to-Report Policy for victims of sexual assault, eliminating a critical barrier to service member reporting of sexual assault.

Effective immediately, a sailor, Marine, cadet or midshipman who makes an unrestricted report of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office or the Family Advocacy Program will not be disciplined for minor collateral misconduct.

“Choosing to report a sexual assault is already a major decision for a survivor,” said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro. “It is a first step to accessing the services they need and the justice they deserve. Removing this barrier empowers victims and survivors — they should not have to choose whether to implicate themselves by reporting a crime committed against them.”

“Collateral misconduct” refers to victim misconduct associated with the time, place or circumstance surrounding a sexual assault. Examples include underage drinking at the time of the assault, an unprofessional relationship with the accused or violating curfews, off-limits locations, school standards or similar matters.

Previously, there was no policy to protect victims from disciplinary action associated with their own misconduct in connection to an alleged assault. As a result, victims may have had to choose whether to implicate themselves for misconduct by reporting an assault.

“Collateral misconduct by the victim of a sexual assault is one of the most significant barriers to reporting because of the victim’s fear of punishment,” said Andrea Goldstein, assistant director of the DON Force Resiliency. “We’re committed to removing barriers to reporting, restoring victim’s trust, and improving victim care.”

Under the new policy, commanding officers must assess whether misconduct was collateral to a report of sexual assault and if mitigating and aggravating circumstances exist. If after considering the circumstances, they determine that the collateral misconduct is minor, the victim shall not be disciplined.

The commanding officer may however, take non-disciplinary administrative action such as referral to substance abuse treatment.

Related: Pentagon outlines sexual assault reforms