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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 19, 2022

New Sexual Assault Prevention, Response and Recovery Policy update extends confidentiality

By Michelle Underwood, Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery (SAPRR) Program manager

The Connect to Care ALCOAST 363/22, published Sept. 29, clarifies that there is no such thing as a “wrong door” when trying to access care related to a sexual assault. 

More than just a policy update, Connect to Care promotes confidentiality for people seeking services from Coast Guard helping agencies such as Behavioral Health, Employee Assistance, Family Advocacy, and Ombudsmen. This policy directs agency staff to reach out to a Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery (SAPRR) professional, and facilitate a confidential and direct transfer of care, referred to as a warm hand-off. Connect to Care allows a person flexibility to make their own decision regarding whom they reach out to for help, and whether or not command is notified of the sexual assault.  

A warm hand-off from helping agencies to SAPRR is the most streamlined way to ensure survivors receive the clearest information about options and resources to address their needs. Lindsay Charles, the SAPRR Oversight and Policy Office chief explains, “It takes tremendous courage for victims and survivors of sexual assaults to seek help—it’s our responsibility as helping professionals to make sure they get the help they need, and respect their right to confidentiality.”

SAPRR professionals understand the ins and outs of the legal, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of sexual assault’s impact on people and are in a position to walk alongside survivors as they navigate various systems and pursue a healthy path toward recovery. However, keep in mind that a warm hand-off to SAPRR staff is never an obligation to file a restricted or unrestricted report. Regardless of whether a victim accepts SAPRR services, a safety assessment and requested referrals for any additional care or treatment will be provided.

The Coast Guard understands the importance of empowering people to make informed decisions, particularly survivors of sexual assault, who have been deprived of their agency and bodily autonomy. Controlling disclosure of their sexual assault (how, when, and to whom) is part of the recovery journey. The goal is to connect survivors with SAPRR professionals who can explain available options and services, since they are trained to provide trauma-informed care. 

No one needs to face their trauma alone! There are well-trained professionals throughout the Coast Guard prepared to help survivors along their path to recovery. For more information, email the SAPRR team.