A woman watches a domestic violence incident in this photo illustration released by the Air Force in 2016.

A woman watches a domestic violence incident in this photo illustration released by the Air Force in 2016. (Tenley Long/U.S. Air Force)

Air Force and Space Force service members, or their spouses, who are victims of sexual crimes or domestic violence may more easily relocate to new duty stations under recent rule changes.

The changes, which took effect Oct. 28, lift a requirement that alleged victims who file unrestricted reports obtain a waiver before they can receive an expedited transfer within their first four years at a duty station.

A restricted report remains confidential and doesn’t trigger an investigation or command notification, unless the service member gives written consent or a health and safety risk exists.

The rule changes apply to service members and their adult family members who may be victims of sexual assault, stalking and other sexual misconduct or domestic violence.

Expedited transfers assist recovering sexual assault survivors “by moving them to a new location where they feel comfortable, few people know about the assault, and they can work without fear of ostracism or retaliation," Tonya Lee, operations manager of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Integrated Resiliency Operations Branch at the Air Force Personnel Center, told Stars and Stripes in comments emailed by the Air Force on Thursday.

The service’s new policy applies to servicemen and women who allege domestic violence by a spouse or intimate partner and who files an unrestricted report, the policy states.

A service member whose adult military dependent makes an allegation of sexual assault that isn’t domestic abuse and files an unrestricted report may request expedited transfer, according to the policy.

However, in these cases there needs to be a military connection, such as an alleged offender being an adult military dependent, someone who works for the Department of Defense as a civilian employee or as a contractor or if the alleged assault happened on base, according to the policy.

The new rules also permit airmen and guardians accused or acquitted of such misconduct to be reassigned without a waiver within their first four years at their duty stations, Air Force spokeswoman Laurel Falls told Stars and Stripes in an email Tuesday. There is an exception.

“Once charges are pending, Airmen or Guardians accused of sexual assault are not considered for reassignment actions,” she said.

A wing commander or vice wing commander or equivalent can request a service member be reassigned, she said.

“Commanders cannot request to transfer Airmen or Guardians once they are charged with sexual assault,” she said. “Commanders can only request reassignment prior to… charges or for Airmen and Guardians acquitted by court martial of committing a sexual crime.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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