Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Preventing sexual violence

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/9/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Alaska - Nearly one in every five women, or 20 million, have been raped in their lifetime in the U.S. Approximately one in 71 men, or almost 1.6 million, have been raped during their life. Roughly 33.5 percent of multiracial women have been raped. Around 27 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have been raped. About 15 percent of Hispanic, 22 percent of black and 19 percent of white women have been raped, according to a report released from the White House in January.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

On Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, reports of sexual assault or similar crimes have increased, said Army Capt. Danyelle Kemp, U.S. Army Alaska Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention division program manager.

The two main types of reports are restricted and unrestricted reporting. Survivors who use restricted reporting disclose the crime to specific individuals within an organization such as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, a victim advocate, a health care provider, a legal assistance attorney or chaplain. In addition to these resources, survivors who use unrestricted reporting disclose the crime to their chain of command and security forces to begin an official investigation of the crime.

"Within the last six months, we've seen a gradual uptick in the numbers of males reporting sexual assaults," Kemp said. "Along with that, we've seen a significant increase in the numbers of unrestricted reports. Sometimes a report starts restricted and gets changed to unrestricted later on; these have actually started unrestricted."

The increase in reporting is likely due to two things, Kemp said. "People are starting to feel more comfortable coming to their commands [with the issue]. Secondly, I feel that the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' has had a huge impact on this."

Other variables are also possible reasons for the increase.

"I think that the Special Victims Counsel plays a huge role in that change because they walk the survivor through the legal process from start to finish," said Darmaly Williams, 673d Air Base Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

"I think that, on base or Air Force-wide, we're doing a much better job of spreading awareness and just making people feel a little easier about coming forward and going after the people who commit these crimes, because it is a crime," said Chief Master Sgt. Call, 673d Air Base Wing command chief.

People should feel welcome to talk to their officials and report any incidents, Call said.

"You've got to make people comfortable enough to come and talk to you when they have problems," he said. "It's unfortunate that it continues to be a problem."

"I think that awareness may be encouraging people to come forward a little more," Call said. "I definitely recommend seeking help if something's going on. Contact the SARC. We try to encourage the unrestricted report so we can go after the person who did it, make them pay for the crime they committed so they aren't still out there doing things to other people, but we don't deter restricted reporting."

The presidential administration has adopted a series of executive actions to address sexual assault in the military - including measures to improve command accountability, expand victim's rights within the military justice system, increase training across the ranks and provide new support for victims.

"It is up to all of us to ensure victims of sexual violence are not left to face these trials alone," said President Barack Obama in the report. "Too often, survivors suffer in silence, fearing retribution, lack of support, or that the criminal justice system will fail to bring the perpetrator to justice."

Most victims know their assailant. The vast majority - nearly 98 percent - of perpetrators are male. Young people are especially at risk: nearly 50 percent of female survivors were raped before the age of 18; more than 25 percent of male survivors were raped before the age of 10; one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Repeated victimization is common, according to the report.

"We must do more than raise awareness about the realities of sexual assault; confront and change insensitive attitudes wherever they persist; enhance training and education in the criminal justice system; and expand access to critical health, legal and protection services for survivors," said Obama, who first declared April to be Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in 2009.

There is also a directive for each service to provide all victims of sexual assault with legal counsel who will be at a victim's side at every step of the process.

"From the time that it is told to the SARC and handed off to the Office of Special Investigations, the next step is to take that victim over to Special Victim Advocate so they can help them through that whole process," Call said.

For more information on the different programs and resources related to sexual assault and prevention, contact the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at 551-2033/2035 or the USARAK SHARP program at 384-7272/6948.

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