RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Randolph Air Force Base is observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month with this year's theme of "Preventing Sexual Assault: Ask! ... Act! ... Intervene!"
During April, the base's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program will educate Airmen and other Team Randolph members on what constitutes sexual assault and their options for reporting it with exhibits and displays at the base library and Air Force Personnel Center. Also, this week SAPR sponsored a self-defense class at the Rambler Fitness Center.
The issue of sexual assault is something the Air Force and other service branches - Army, Marine Corps and Navy - deal with on a daily basis. In fiscal year 2007, the Department of Defense reported 2,085 sexual assault cases involving Armed Forces servicemembers, who were alleged to have committed the crime or were the victims of sexual assault.
Jacqueline Shiflet, Randolph Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, said the focus of this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to get Airmen to look out for each other to prevent sexual assaults from occurring or to help Airmen who have been through a sexual assault.
"Airmen can do three things in a sexual assault situation - ask, act and intervene," Ms. Shiflet said. "They can ask if a friend needs help, act if they see a sexual assault occurring and intervene by calling the authorities if they see someone being assaulted."
Servicemembers who are victims of sexual assault have two options for reporting it, unrestricted and restricted. According to the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Web site, the unrestricted option gives active-duty personnel the choice of reporting a sexual assault to the base chain of command, law enforcement officials or SARC or requesting that healthcare providers notify law enforcement of the alleged crime. After the assault has been reported, the SARC assigns a victim advocate for the person and the victim can request a sexual assault forensic examination, which can include the gathering of evidence.
The restricted option gives Airmen the option of not having to report a sexual assault to base or law enforcement authorities so the victim can retain their confidentiality. The alleged victim could report the assault to a base SARC, victim advocate or chaplain.
Under the restricted option, medical providers can provide for care and treatment of a victim while reporting the assault to the SARC. At the victim's request, a forensic examination can also be conducted, and the victim can receive counseling. Then the victim has a year to turn a restricted report to unrestricted, which would trigger an investigation.
Ms. Shiflet said some contributing factors of sexual assault are domestic violence, alcohol and drugs.
"The scenario of the stranger coming from behind the bushes is a rare occurrence in sexual assault cases," she said. "Oftentimes, an alleged perpetrator is an acquaintance of the victim or is someone the victim has come in contact with."
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault says 40 percent of sexual assault or rape cases occur in the victim's home, 20 percent in a home of a friend, relative or neighbor, 10 percent on a street and seven percent in a parking lot or garage.
There are steps men and women can take, however, so they do not end up being sexual assault victims, Ms. Shiflet said.
"First, if you are drinking, don't leave a drink unattended, because someone could put something, like a date rape drug in it," she said. "Second, have a buddy system in place so that you are not alone when you are drinking."
Ms. Shiflet said base members, including active-duty personnel and DoD civilians, have sexual assault informational sessions each year. The sessions cover what constitutes sexual assault, the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment, why sexual assault is a crime, the meaning of consent and options of reporting sexual assault.
Ms. Shiflet said embarrassment and shame, whether a person is a male or female, can prevent a sexual assault victim from coming forward, but she and other people can help the victim cope with it.
"I am here to support the victim," she said.
If you become a victim
Sexual assault is a crime that can happen to anyone at anytime. The Randolph Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office says an assault occurs every 90 seconds nationwide. While women are likely to be the victims of a sexual assault, men are not immune from the crime. One in every six women and one in every 33 men will be the victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
If you become a victim of sexual assault, report the crime and get help. If you should come across someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, listen and help them out.
Procedures sexual assault victims should follow:
· Go to a safe location away from the attacker.
· Preserve all evidence of the assault. Do not bathe, wash your hands or brush your teeth. Do not clean or straighten up the crime scene.
· Contact your local sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate or healthcare provider.
· Seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you do not have any visible physical injuries, you may be at risk of becoming pregnant or acquiring a sexually transmitted disease.
· Ask the healthcare provider to conduct a sexual assault forensic examination to preserve forensic evidence.
· If you suspect you might have been drugged in the assault, request that a urine sample be collected.
· Write down, tape or record all the details you can recall about the assault and your assailant.
How to report a sexual assault and get help from professionals:
· Restricted (confidential) reporting for military personnel; provides victim advocate, medical and counseling services.
· Unrestricted reporting for all base personnel; initiates law enforcement investigation and provides victim advocate, medical, legal and counseling services.
Important base contact numbers for reporting sexual assault:
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
652-8787 (24 hours)
12th Security Forces
652-5700 (24 hours)
AF Office of Special Investigations (OSI)
Helping victims report a sexual assault:
· Be calm, be nonjudgmental and listen.
· Address immediate safety, medical and emotional needs.
· Do not pressure the victim for details.
· Encourage the victim to contact SARC.
(Source: Randolph Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office.)
For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, contact the SAPR office at 652-4387, to report a sexual assault call the SAPR hotline at 652-8787.