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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of October 9, 2019

If I tell someone in the military that I am experiencing abuse in my relationship, will it be kept confidential?

There are just three groups of professionals who’ve been granted the authority to keep information about domestic abuse confidential under the “restricted” reporting option. They are victim advocates, Family Advocacy Program (FAP) clinicians, and medical professionals.1 However, even those three groups of professionals must report the abuse to military law enforcement and command if they believe that it is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and immediate threat to your health or safety, or that of another person.1

You are also able to have privileged, confidential communications with a chaplain.

Making a restricted report to the FAP will still allow you to access victim advocacy services, such as safety planning, as well as medical treatment, without launching a criminal investigation or notifying command.

Reporting the incident to persons other than those mentioned above may result in a report that will not be kept confidential, which is known as an “unrestricted report.” Contacting military police or the Judge Advocate General (JAG), for example, may result in an unrestricted report. If you are concerned that your spouse/partner may learn of your seeking help for abuse, then you should first contact an FAP victim advocate, or your health care provider. They can help you consider if, when, and how to make an unrestricted report and assist you in accessing additional services.

With an unrestricted report, you or any concerned person may notify command, the FAP, or military law enforcement of an incident of abuse. Upon this report, an official command or criminal investigation of the incident will start, and you and any other victims will have access to medical and clinical services.

You may also decide to seek help outside of the military, where stricter confidentiality rules may apply. Shelters and agencies in your area can help you think through your options. To find an agency in your area, go to our Advocates and Shelters page and enter your state in the drop-down menu. Shelters near military installations are typically familiar with military and civilian policies and practices and can also help you access an FAP victim advocate if you decide to do so.

1Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, May 26, 2017, E. 3, Restricted Reporting for Incidents of Domestic Abuse