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Several reporting methods, contacts available to sexual assault victims

By Jacqueline Shiflet | Randolph AFB Sexual Assault Response Coordinator | April 24, 2008

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — There are many barriers as to why victims who have been sexually assaulted do not report it: fear, shame, embarrassment, having to relive the incident.

However, the primary reason we hear is victims worry about their lack of privacy.

Victims quickly become aware when they disclose their information that there is the possibility that their sexual (recent sex acts or partners, orientation and past sexual assaults), mental (treatment, medications and test results), medical (sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and abortion) or employment history may be released.

The Air Force developed a system that addresses many of the above concerns to maximize privacy, improve victim care, investigation and prosecution of offenders. There are three types of reporting options: restricted, unrestricted and independent. The Department of Defense concluded that restricted reporting was necessary to provide additional time and to increase control over the release and management of the victim's personal information.

Restricted reporting

Restricted reporting is confidential. It empowers the victim to seek relevant information and support, which leads to an informed decision about participating in the criminal process. The victim reports directly to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or a health care official. This option is only available to active-duty military, Coast Guard, reservists performing federal duty training and members of the National Guard under title 10 Status. The sexual assault is not reported to OSI or to the command section and an investigation is not initiated.

Unrestricted reporting

An unrestricted report is available to active and retired military, civilians, contractors, dependants and family members (age 18 and up). Since this option is non-confidential, the sexual assault is reported to OSI and to the command section. Subsequently, an investigation is initiated. A sexual assault victim advocate is assigned to attend to the victim needs, provide supportive case management services and eliminate any barriers to other resources. The victim can access medical care and counseling services. However, there is limited confidentiality and commanders will determine the course of action in cases of collateral misconduct.

Independent reporting

Independent is third party reporting. If the victim discloses to someone about the assault and the person subsequently notifies command or if someone observes the assault and notifies command, an official investigation may begin. 

"Prevent Sexual Assault: Ask! Act! Intervene!"

This year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month theme is "Prevent Sexual Assault: Ask! Act! Intervene!"

This topic focuses on everyone taking an active role in helping prevent sexual assault from occurring. Therefore, it is important to inquire when a friend or a co-worker needs help.

Those who become aware of a sexual assault or a potential problem developing should take action by accessing the situation, get involved and contact the appropriate persons to assist the victim.

The following services are available to assist victims: Installation SARC (24 hours a day, seven days a week at 210-652-8787), unit victim advocates, Installation Sexual Assault Response Team, Airman and Family Readiness Center, Family Advocacy Program, Rape Crisis Center, sexual assault nurse examiner and Military One Source.

Sexual assault is a crime and a violation of our core values. We "train the world's finest Airmen for tomorrow and deploy combat-ready warriors today" by working together in a safe, cooperative and productive environment.

The only way to achieve excellence in all we do is through mutual trust and respect.