Evaluations and oversight

One benefit of military programming is the consistent commitment to evaluation and oversight. In this section reports provided to the DoD or based on research findings highlight changes needed and progress made toward specific goals. Notably, the Task Force Report on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault (2004) provided the foundation for the current stream of centralized programming and oversight through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) in the DoD. The task force report outlined 35 recommendations for changes and improvements to the military system of response to sexual assault and prevention practices.

The recommendations from the 2004 task force suggested that a consistent effort across military branches would help to create a unified response and easily incorporated prevention practices (DoD, 2004). As a result, SAPRO was developed with the sole responsibility of coordinating all policy related to sexual assault. Additionally, the task force identified reporting as an area of major concern. According to a statement by Dr. Kaye Whitley of SAPRO, DoD data indicated that crimes of sexual violence were vastly underreported. Reasons that service members chose not to report sexual assault included fear of not being believed, of stigma, of retaliation, or that the justice system would fail them (Whitley, 2009).

Many systematic changes developed from these evaluations. For instance, the DoD incorporated a new reporting option, known as “Restricted Reporting,” to allow for service members who’ve experienced sexual assault to seek medical or psychological care without initiating an official investigation. Previously, a service member could not seek help without involving command or engaging in the legal process. Evaluation and oversight also led the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to implement universal screening for sexual violence in healthcare settings. (For more information on reporting options and other interventions, see the Intervention and Response section.)