If I tell someone in the military that I am being abused, will it be kept confidential?
Whether or not what you say will be kept confidential depends on who you report it to. If you want the information to be confidential, this is known as making a "restricted report" (a non-confidential report is an "unrestricted report").
There are just three groups of professionals who’ve been granted the ability to keep information about domestic abuse or violence confidential. They are victim advocates, chaplains and medical professionals (health care providers).1 However, even those three groups of professionals would have to reveal the abuse if they believe that it is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and immediate threat to the health or safety of the you or another person. In that case, it will likely be reported to the FAP, the commander and/or law enforcement.2
If you report the abuse to other staff at the FAP (aside from a victim advocate or supervisor of a victim advocate) it will not be confidential. FAP works with military command and law enforcement personnel. The abuser will also be interviewed to have the chance to respond to the complaint.2
All others are required to make an immediate report of the abuse or violence to FAP. Even if you, personally, do not report the abuse, all military personnel and civilians employed by the military (with the exception of the three groups of professionals mentioned above), are required to report suspected domestic violence to other parts of the system. What this means is that, regardless of how information about suspected domestic violence comes into the system (i.e., emergency room report, routine medical screening, police response or victim disclosure), the command and others will be notified, whether or not you want this to occur.3
While there are others who can offer assistance, such as the military police or the Staff Judge Advocate or Judge Advocate General, contacting them may result in a formal report. If you are concerned about the abuser being aware that you’ve asked for assistance, then begin with the victim advocate, the chaplain or a medical professional. They can then assist you to consider when and how to make a more formal report of the abuse/ violence and to access other needed information and support from the professionals who do not have the ability to keep it confidential.
You may also decide to seek help outside of the military, where stricter confidentiality rules 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 the policies, practices and people and can also help you access a victim advocate.
1 Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, sections 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 6.7.1
2Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, section E184.108.40.206.2
3Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, section E3.5.5