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Sexual assault reporting: Know your part, do your part

  • Published
  • By Pamela Dorsey
  • Installation SARC
Consider the following scenarios and think about what you would do if it happened to you ... or to someone you know. How would you advise them?

Scenario No. 1: You met some friends at a club downtown and when you got there, a man you know from the base hands you a drink. You drank it as he led you to the dance floor. The next thing you remember is waking up in somebody's room, alone and undressed . . . you know something happened.

Scenario No. 2: You've always prided yourself for doing an excellent job. One day your supervisor calls you into her office and closes the door. She said she noticed the good work you were doing and wanted to put you in for a quarterly award. She then reaches down and grabs you inappropriately through your uniform. You were shocked! Without saying a word, you leave her office feeling humiliated and confused.

Both of these incidents are classified as sexual assault and can be reported to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. However, many people are still not sure how to report a sexual assault incident or how to advise someone if they wanted to maintain their confidentiality.

Most people who are assaulted say they feel a level of shame, guilt or confusion. The incident often leaves them feeling alone and scared. If this is you or someone you know, what you say to yourself or to others will make all the difference in the world. The first thing I want to say to you is this: it's not your fault ...period!

Restricted reporting

The fear of losing one's confidentiality is the biggest barrier to reporting. The Department of Defense understands this, so policy has been written allowing active duty military members, family members age 18 and older, Guard members, and Reserve members in the appropriate status the ability to report their assault to specific individuals to maintain their confidentiality. This is called restricted reporting. If the incident is reported to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, a healthcare provider, Victim Advocate or Chaplain only, then confidentiality can be maintained. However, if the information gets to anyone in the chain of command such as the Office of Special Investigations, security forces, first sergeant, commander or immediate supervisor, confidentiality is lost and the incident will be investigated.

Unrestricted report

If the chain of command is aware of the incident or if the victim decides to go forward with an investigation, this is called an unrestricted report. Active duty military members, family members age 18 and older, Guard members, and Reserve members in the appropriate status are eligible to make an unrestricted report. Office of Special Investigations or local law enforcement investigates all allegations of sexual assault.

For both restricted and unrestricted reports, the SAPR office ensures the victim is treated with dignity and respect, is offered advocacy, ensures medical assistance is given if needed, and ensures the victim is aware of their right to be represented by a military lawyer called Special Victims Counsel at no charge.

Reporting sexual assaults is not a "hit or miss" business. We should take personal responsibility to ensure we know our part so we can do our part when advising victims. The SAPR office is always available to advise and can be reached through our 24/7 HELPLINE at (618) 256-SARC (7272).