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Restricted Reporting for Civilian Rape Survivors Revoked

Six months ago, Gen. Carter Ham, USAREUR (U.S. Army, Europe) commander in Germany, won an exception to the Restricted Reported policy, allowing civilian survivors of sexual assault to benefit from an option that has helped many servicemembers seek help in the aftermath of a rape. Until then, the only way for a survivor who wasn’t a member of the military to seek counseling or medical treatment was to resign themselves to the fact that they would most likely have to face their crime being reported to authorities and base commanders for investigation. Many times this meant surrendering all privacy.

My tenuous feelings for Restricted Reporting are no secret. RR allows sexual assault and rape survivors a measure of security, an iota of control, a modicum of a way to hold on, is to provide a way to report the crimes against them without requiring survivors to go through the ordeal of an investigation. The cold side of that coin is that it doesn’t put criminals away. They go free, and the survivors could potentially see them again.

However, any non-military attached civilian in the United States would have the right to seek medical treatment and counseling without making a police report or choosing to prosecute the rapist. No survivor should be forced into that decision until ready, and that decision should not be made by medical professionals or military chains of command. With Restricted Reporting, the entire military command doesn’t have potential access to any names or facts about the crime, which can unfortunately cause problems for the survivor.

But the civilian right to Restricted Reported ended this month. Now civilians attached to USAREUR in Germany will once again be confined to Unrestricted Reporting.

While only three civilians took advantage of the option in the months it was allowed, I am inclined to agree with Carolyn Collins, director of the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, that six months is just not enough time to judge the program, which accounts for one quarter of the military’s rape reporting. Collins, along with the Department of the Army, has asked the Secretary of Defense to extend the program, because it is ultimately the Department of Defense’s decision to extend privacy to these survivors, not just to USAREUR, but globally, to all military bases worldwide. After all, shouldn’t they have the same options, to protect their privacy, the same as our servicemembers?

In the States, victims denied this option could, potentially seek private treatment at off-post facilities. But this option isn’t available to many civilians attached to military overseas, especially with language and health care barriers.

Haven’t we seen this happening elsewhere, with other rights?

Providing Restricted Reporting is a way for the military to show that the focus is actually on helping survivors and not worrying about the number crunch game. In the end, though I’d like to see justice brought against the perpetrator, looking out for the well-being of survivors is more important to me.

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