Find Help I Sexual Assault

Connecting Vets
June 05, 2018 - 1:05 pm
Resources for Sexual Assault Veterans

Connecting Vets


If you were sexually assaulted or raped in the military, whether you're active duty or a veteran, we have step-by-step guides of how to proceed.  If you are in need of help or are in crisis, call 911, or use these phone numbers and chat lines:



DoD SafeHelp Line 1 (877) 995-5247 or chat

RAINN  Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network  1 (800) 656-4673 or chat

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 (800) 273-8255.Text: 838255 or chat

Veterans Crisis Line  1 (800) 273-8255. Press 1 for veterans. Text: 838255 or chat

DoD Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office


What to do if you're sexually assaulted - Active Duty:

So, you’re in the military, and you’re a survivor of sexual violence. Let’s walk through what you can do next.

The first thing you need to think about is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE). This will result in a Restricted Report, but that’s nothing to be scared of. It’s really important to have a nurse or doctor look at you ASAP, both to look at your mental state and to document any physical harm. Even if it’s been a few days, the physician can still find evidence of trauma, and evidence can only help you.

Next, if you’re not ready to spring into legal action just yet, that’s okay—take the time you need to process what happened. Learn your rights as a survivor of sexual trauma. Definitely talk to somebody you trust, keeping in mind that some of the people in your life might be mandatory reporters because of their jobs. A non-military friend or relative might be best in this instance.

When you’re ready to start thinking about how you want to move forward, you’ve got a couple options.

You have two options next:  you can proceed with military court or civilian court.  If you want to proceed with civilian court, contact your local law enforcement authorities.  Civilian court has more expertise and experience handling sexual assaults.

If you want to proceed with military options, here's how to do it.

Are you interested in making an official report?  There are two ways you can report in the military: an Unrestricted Report and a Restricted Report. Any kind of reporting will automatically put you in touch with a SAPR Victim Advocate, who will explain your options and give you advice throughout your process.

Restricted Report:

  • Is only open to Active Duty military and adult dependents (spouses), not DoD civilian employees or contractors
  • Starts when you tell a SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator), a SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) Victim Advocate, or a medical care professional about what happened
  • Will make sure you get medical care, mental health care, and a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) if you haven’t already had one
  • Will give you access to legal advice from a Special Victim’s Counsel
  • Lets the installation commander know that “an assault” has occurred, plus some other non-identifying details, while keeping your name totally confidential
  • Does NOT give you any power to keep your perpetrator away from you via protective orders or transferring
  • Can be turned into an Unrestricted Report if and when you decide to make that move

Unrestricted Report:

  • Allows you to apply for a military protective order and/or an Expedited Transfer, which Restricted Reporting does not.
  • Starts when:
    • You tell any of the people in the Restricted Report list and specify that you want to file an Unrestricted Report
    • You tell a Commander
    • You tell Law Enforcement or Military Criminal Investigations Office (MCIO)
  • Gives you all the same privileges as a Restricted Report
    • Begins a criminal investigation into your assault that, if successful, will end up in courts martial
    • Entitles you to at least monthly updates on the status of “investigative, prosecution, or command proceedings regarding the sexual assault,” until the “final disposition” of the case (e.g. the ultimate action in the case, which could include no action)

If you’re more of a visual person, here’s a flowchart with most of that info.

Depending on how you’d like to handle the situation, each kind of reporting provides you with different options. Maybe you won’t choose to report at all, or maybe you’ll choose to report a while later.  Keep in mind that the longer you wait to file a report, the harder it’ll be to prove your case in court.

You also want to remember that reporting gives you access to the mental health care and guidance you need. There’s even a self-help course you can complete through the DoD’s Safe Helpline called “Building Hope & Resiliency: Addressing the Effects of Sexual Assault.”

Whatever you decide to do, remember that you did not deserve or ask for what happened. Some people, unfortunately, may try to make you feel that way to get you to back down. You deserve help, you deserve to live without fear, and you deserve justice—even if it inconveniences other people.


What to do if you're sexually assaulted - Veterans:

Were you sexually assaulted or harassed while you were in the military? Believe it or not, there are plenty of resources for you—even if you never came forward while you were active.

If you’re dealing with mental health issues because of what happened, you can claim something called Military Sexual Trauma (MST) with VA. By itself, MST doesn’t entitle you to disability benefits; however, if you can show that you have other issues related to your MST (depression, PTS, etc.), then those issues become a disability related to your military service.

There’s even a VA brochure detailing exactly what benefits an MST disability claim can make accessible to you, including “monthly non-taxable compensation, enrollment in the VA health care system, a 10-point hiring preference for federal employment, and other important benefits.”

If you have problems related to MST and you’re interested in filing a disability claim, this amazing step-by-step guide on the Outreach and Resource Services for Women Veterans (OARS) website will show you exactly what to do. Seriously, it even tells you how to answer each question on each form.

But wait, there’s more: if you made a claim for MST before December 2011 and got denied, you can request that your case be re-evaluated because improvements to the system. Contact your regional VA, call 1-800-827-1000, or use to get started.

Not interested in filing a disability claim? You can still get help and treatment from VA, free of charge—even if you otherwise don’t qualify for VA healthcare! Just call the VA nearest you and ask to speak to the MST coordinator. Or, here’s a list of every MST coordinator in the country and their email addresses, if you’d rather reach out that way.

No matter how long ago your trauma was, it’s never too late to reach out and get help. You are not alone. There are people out there just waiting to help you.

If you or a veteran you know are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone at the Veterans Crisis Line.