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Serving Victims in the Military

Military Legal System

The U.S. military is set apart from civilian culture by its laws, social customs, and practices.87 The military legal system comprises three elements that work together: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Judge Advocate General Corps, and command discretion. In its intervention and prevention efforts, DoD has called on civilian experts and participated in training programs to adapt civilian concepts to the military context. However, state and local civilian policies, procedures, and programs that relate to sexual assault cannot always be fully replicated in the military. The constitutional allocation of powers between the Federal Government and states, the requirements of treaties (Status of Forces agreements), the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal laws, the role of the commander, and the culture of the military all have an impact on the way the military responds to sexual assault.


Military law defines sexual trauma as sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other acts of violence. It further defines sexual harassment as repeated unsolicited, verbal, or physical contact of a sexual nature that is threatening in nature.

You will need to consider each of the armed services' structures along with legal jurisdictional issues to develop programs that reflect the different missions and cultures that exist within the armed services. Two useful resources can help you in this endeavor: