Military Sexual Assault: The Law Basics


Any form of sexual-related violations is a serious crime in the United States Armed Forces. All civilians are tried in civilian courts and the military members on duty face all charges through the court-martial process.

What’s sexual assault?

According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 120), sexual assault occurs when a person commits any form of a sexual act upon other another individual by;

  • Inflicting fear or threatening
  • Causing any form of bodily harm
  • Pretending that the sexual act has a professional purpose

It includes all unconsented sexual conduct upon an unaware or sleeping person or even someone who is incapacitated and can’t provide consent. A military member who commits sexual conduct upon another using force, threats, or another way of inflicting fear should be charged with an aggravated sexual assault. According to the law, this charge is the same as rape but with evidence of any form of penetration. Besides, the threat of violence regardless of whether or not the threat is carried out results in sexual assault charges.

 Are a victim of military sexual assault?

All forms of sexual assault leave the victim feeling lonely and helpless. If you’re a victim, it’s advisable to seek help from a professional and a highly experienced McChord UCMJ lawyer for legal advice. The Department of Defense has also availed resources to help victims of military sexual assault to report these crimes and get the help they need. For anyone who believes that they have been sexually assaulted, the DoD recommends the following.

  • Find a safe place away from the person who attacked you
  • Seek medical care immediately. Request for SAFE (sexual assault forensic examination) and if you suspect you were drugged, request a urine sample for testing.
  • Focus on preserving the evidence by not brushing your teeth or eating, bathing, washing hands, or even straightening up the crime scene until the right authorities collect all the available pieces of evidence.
  • Record or write down all the details you remember about the assailant and the alleged assault

The victim can also contact the Department of Defense Safe Helpline to get in touch with a trained staff member and also inform the nearest SARC (sexual assault response coordinator).

Are you charged with military sexual violence?

All service members facing sexual assault charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Note that the entire court-martial process is different from a criminal trial in different levels of civilian courts. However, you have the right to counsel, confront evidence or witnesses, and the right to have a decision reviewed by an attorney or appeal it.

After the victim of the alleged sexual assault reports the crime, your immediate commander will conduct an inquiry. During the inquiry period, your commander has the discretion to impose non-judicial punishment. The commander can also forward the issue to a higher authority.

The punishments for military sexual assault range include dismissal, dishonorable discharge, confinement in a military prison, and more. The crime of rape is a serious violation and can carry a life sentence or execution.

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