The Coast Guard just updated its Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery (SAPRR) Policy as part of its continuing efforts to combat sexual violence and support victims of sexual assault.
The service now officially recognizes the concept of informally “disclosing” a sexual assault to a friend, family member, or other confidant – essentially, anyone not in law enforcement or the victim’s direct chain of command.
“We want to ensure survivors have a safe space to pause, breathe, and think about their next steps, without having to worry about initiating an investigative process before − and unless − they are ready,” said Rear Adm. Dana Thomas, Director of Coast Guard Health, Safety and Work Life (CG-11).
Now, only a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Victim Advocate Program Specialist (VAPS), Volunteer Victim Advocate (VVA), or Coast Guard medical officer can take a report of sexual assault. Any other form of disclosure by a victim is not a report.
Taking a sexual assault report includes two key actions:
- Explaining the Victim Reporting Preference Statement (Form CG-6095) to the victim, and
- Signing the Victim Reporting Preference Statement as a witness to the victim’s election for either restricted or unrestricted reporting.
If a victim unofficially discloses a sexual assault, their confidant can now help them review their reporting options and connect with the many support resources available to them.
Other major changes
The new “disclosure” option is just one of several significant changes.
Previous policy permitted any healthcare personnel to take a report of sexual assault. Now, Coast Guard medical officers are the only health care professionals who can take a restricted or unrestricted report of sexual assault.
- This summer, the Coast Guard will launch the Office of the Chief Prosecutor (OCP) led by Rear Admiral William Dwyer. The office will prosecute the Coast Guard’s most complex, sensitive cases, such as rape and sexual assault, sexual misconduct, stalking, domestic violence, kidnapping, and child pornography.
- Before getting underway, afloat commands must create a written plan to ensure that all personnel know they can request a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) at any time, whether they plan to report an assault or not. A SAFE typically needs to be completed within 72 hours to maximize the chances of obtaining forensic evidence. Enabling a timely SAFE allows the victim to receive medical attention and preserve available evidence, regardless of whether they choose to report the crime.
- Sexual assault victims can continue receiving any special duty pay connected with their assignment if they temporarily stop performing those duties due to an assault (if certain conditions are met).
The new instruction also makes some administrative changes, such as:
- Requiring unit commanders to notify the SAPRR Oversight and Policy Office (CG-114) at Headquarters of certain high-visibility cases.
- Reducing Volunteer Victim Advocate (VVA) staffing requirements. Now, national security cutters, offshore patrol cutters, and Coast Guard Cutter Eagle are all required to have two VVAs aboard. All other major cutters are required to have at least one VVA. All units with more than 20 persons assigned in a Tricare Prime Remote Area are also required to have one VVA.
- Requiring Coast Guard first responders (Coast Guard Investigative Service, medical officers, Special Victims’ Counsel, SARCs, VAPSs, VVAs and chaplains) to track and maintain training completion records for mandatory annual First Responder Training.
- Removing requirement to hold Crisis Intervention Team meetings for civilian victims.
- Requiring the SAPRR Oversight and Policy Office to designate the hiring authority for all SAPRR positions across the enterprise.
- Prohibiting civilian SAPRR personnel from being assigned any collateral duties outside of SAPRR.
- Introducing three new email organization boxes for the SAPRR Oversight and Policy Office: SAPRR-Guidance@uscg.mil, SAPRR-Notification@uscg.mil and SAPRR-Inspections@uscg.mil.
Recent changes, now codified
This revised instruction codifies previously announced changes, such as:
In the News
- April 20, 2023 (CATCH, Safe Helpline, CGISTips): Three tools to support sexual assault survivors
- Oct. 19, 2022 (Connect to Care): New Sexual Assault Prevention, Response and Recovery Policy update extends confidentiality
- Sept. 1, 2021 (Broadened Eligibility): SAPRR services now available to more of the Coast Guard workforce—civilian employees and former members
- July 22, 2021 (Unrated Time): New administrative support for victims of sexual assault
- April 2, 2021 CIA: Care, Inform, Ask: New resource to support victims of assault
- Aug. 28, 2020 (CIA): Confide in a friend