Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Reporting options available for victims

  • Published
  • By Joyce Atlee
  • Family Advocacy Outreach Manager
Domestic abuse often goes unreported in society at large as well as within the military. Although a victim's decision to report the incident is a crucial step toward holding the offender accountable, victims sometimes fear that reporting may have serious potential consequences such as:

· jeopardizing their safety and welfare and that of other family members
· recurrence and escalation of abuse
· impacting the family's financial stability

A system that affords victims access to medical care, counseling and victim advocacy services without immediate command or law enforcement involvement can encourage victims to feel more comfortable and safe about reporting domestic abuse. A few years ago, the Department of Defense created just such an option. The Restricted Reporting Program encourages victims to come forward and seek help while maintaining their anonymity.

Restricted Reporting
Restricted Reporting is intended to give abuse victims additional time, while receiving relevant information and support, about whether to report the domestic abuse incident to the appropriate commanders and possibly participate in a criminal investigation. Restricted Reporting allows victims to disclose details of the abuse to authorized individuals and to receive medical treatment and victim advocacy services. Furthermore, neither their nor the alleged offender's commander or law enforcement is made aware of the report.

In cases where an adult victim (who is a TRICARE beneficiary) elects and qualifies for Restricted Reporting, the domestic abuse victim advocate and healthcare providers (including Family Advocacy) may NOT disclose covered communications to either the victim's or offender's commander or to law enforcement either within or outside the DOD. Restricted Reporting includes oral, written or electronic communication of personally identifiable information related to a domestic abuse incident made by a victim for the purposes of receiving medical care or information, referral to service providers, advice or safety planning. Those authorized to receive a Restricted Report are domestic abuse victim advocates, the supervisor of victim advocates or a healthcare provider, including those on the Family Advocacy Program staff.

Unrestricted Reporting
Victims of domestic abuse who want to pursue an official investigation of an incident can contact base or civilian law enforcement, the active duty member's chain of command or Family Advocacy Program staff. If at any time, law enforcement, command or other entities become aware of the domestic abuse incident, it automatically becomes an Unrestricted Report. Other factors may also preclude qualification for Restricted Reporting. These are: if the victim is in imminent danger of harm or if children are involved in the incident, either as alleged victims or as witnesses to domestic violence.

Upon notification of a domestic abuse incident, victim advocacy services and FAP clinical services will be offered to the victim. Additionally, at the victim's discretion/request, a healthcare provider will conduct any forensic medical examination deemed appropriate.

Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know. If there is a future incident that does not meet the qualifications for Restricted Reporting, the commander may only be informed that there had been a previous restricted case, but no details may be disclosed.

Here at Tinker, the domestic abuse victim advocate, Wanda James, works out of the Family Advocacy office in the 72nd Medical Group. She can be reached during normal duty hours at 582-6604. She is also available 24/7 through the domestic abuse hotline: 415-0599. Ms. James would be happy to provide further explanation of the Restricted/Unrestricted Reporting options. In addition, she offers a range of services to those needing help, whether they are currently involved in an abusive relationship or have been previously.

The DAVA and a Family Advocacy treatment manager also offer Access to Recovery Support Groups. These empowerment groups are designed to provide support and information for victims/survivors of domestic violence. Those who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic violence while growing up are also welcome. These groups meet on Thursdays for seven weeks, and participants can enter at any session.

Separate groups are offered for men and women. The women's session is held from 1 to 2 p.m., while the men's session runs from 3 to 4 p.m. This service is open to active duty, civilians and contractors. Call 582-6604 to sign up, but walk-ins are welcome.

Family Advocacy offices are on the second floor at the 72nd MDG Clinic (Bldg. 1094), and inside the Mental Health Clinic, just past the Dental Clinic.