FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
An American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Every 9 minutes, one of those victims is a child. It is also estimated that 18,900 servicemembers experience unwanted sexual contact annually. (Rainn.org) The Department of Defense has designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This designation has also been used and recognized by civilian sector.
The theme for this designation is “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.” This cannot be emphasized enough. The major goal of this designation is to raise awareness regarding sexual violence, along with educating the population on prevention.
April 2020 is significantly different than those in prior years. Due to the response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, additional restrictions have been placed on servicemembers, along with civilian dependents. This may lead to many feeling isolated and unaware of the resources available regarding the reporting of sexual assault or abuse.
This may also lead to a fear of being punished for collateral misconduct related to the sexual assault a victim wishes to report due to violating a COVID-19 protocol.
As we all work to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, we must not forget to continue working to ensure the effectiveness of reporting sexual assault and abuse.
One step we can all take is to ensure victims of sexual assault and abuse are aware of the resources available to assist them, particularly effective and available reporting options. In addition to potentially preventing the offender from being held accountable, a failure to properly advise a victim of all reporting options may lead to a lack of trust in the process, which could lead to less faith in the military’s ability to provide the resources needed for victim support.
Ensuring that we create a culture where victims are comfortable with reporting sexual assault allows victims to continue with the healing process, enables the military justice system to hold perpetrators accountable, and provides the Air Force the crucial data it needs to continue striving to effectively and efficiently combat sexual assault.
Increasing effective prevention methods is another responsibility we share, and can come in many forms. While prevention education is often aimed at the actions of the potential victim, everyone has a part to play in prevention.
Though sexual assault is rarely a public crime, bystanders can take small steps to prevent sexual assault from occurring. These steps could be as simple as ensuring someone gets safely home and away from potential perpetrators, or that someone is not left alone while awaiting their designated driver.
It can also come in the form of being brave enough to report a crime knowing you may have also been engaging in minor misconduct, such as drinking while under 21 years of age.
If you or someone you know would like more information on the resources available to you, please contact any of the following resources for more information. Even with all the measures in place in response to COVID-19, there is help available regarding reporting options and legal representation. “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.”
Fairchild Air Force Base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPR) – (509) 247-7272 (Available 24/7 for response.)
Fairchild Air Force Base, Office of the Special Victims’ Counsel: (202) 329-7219
The Department of Defense Safe Helpline: (877) 995-5247
The National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE (4613)
(The inclusion of any resources in this article does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense.)