JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
It's Friday night and you're looking forward to an evening out with friends, except their plans change, and now they can't make it. You're dressed and ready so you decide to go out alone. You heard about a new local bar and decide to stop in for a few drinks. A cute guy or girl pulls up a seat next to you and buys you a drink. You're having a great time, but you might be putting yourself in danger.
Being in an unfamiliar area alone and accepting drinks from people you don't know can make you an easy target for sexual assault or rape. If that happens, do you know what to do? Who do you call first, the police or your chain of command? Can you take a shower or do you go to the emergency room?
According to Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Tiffany Mizzell, victims should immediately report any sexual assault or rape to either herself as the SARC, or the on-call Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program victim advocate. The SARC or VA not only provides emotional aide to a victim but also informs them of what their reporting options are.
"First and foremost, if you are a victim of sexual assault, don't wait - call us anytime of the day or night. There is a duty phone number, 843-478-8615, that will put a victim in touch with a VA." Ms. Mizzell said. "This is very important because a victim needs to understand their options when it comes to reporting the incident. We're there as advocates to be their support network no matter which type of report they file."
There are two types of reporting procedures for military members: restricted and unrestricted.
Restricted reporting allows a victim to report the assault, on a confidential basis, to only the SAPR VA or SARC. A victim may still receive medical attention, counseling and support through their advocate without triggering an official investigation. However, should the victim disclose any information or details of the events to a military friend or base security, the report is no longer restricted.
Unrestricted reporting launches a full investigation involving the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, legal services, security and the victim's command. Once the investigation begins, a victim may choose how involved they want to be with the case.
"Should a military member call authorities prior to calling an advocate it could limit their choices on whether or not they can go restricted or unrestricted," said Ms. Mizzell. "Every victim has options and we just want them to be aware of what they are. That is why it is important to call an advocate so that these details are given to a victim."
Joint Base Charleston VAs are trained volunteers on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and respond immediately to victims of an attempted or completed act of sexual assault or rape. They provide vital information to victims, all the while helping a victim through any medical, legal or investigative procedures.
"We are here for the victim," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Kate Jackson, 628th Security Forces Squadron. "As an advocate, we hold no bias opinions, we do not judge and we will never put blame on a victim. Our job is to ensure a victim is taken care of both physically and emotionally. We are their ultimate line of support."
The Navy, as well as the Department of Defense, has set a goal to reduce sexual assault cases throughout the ranks. To help with this effort, the SAPR program was formed, providing empathetic advocates to help victims through legal and medical procedures as well as raising awareness through preventive training.
"It is essential that military members are thoroughly trained and aware of what to do should they or someone they know fall victim to such a terrible crime," said Ms. Mizzell. "Although the Navy requires annual training on sexual assault and has dedicated the entire month of April to help raise awareness, many service members are still unfamiliar with what their options are or who they can turn to.
"Here at JB CHS, we are dedicated to ensuring all our service members and SAPR program members are prepared to deal with these types of situations," she said.
According to national statistics, one out of every six women and approximately one out of every 33 men has been a victim of an attempted or completed act of assault or rape in their lifetime. These statistics are only the reported assaults and rapes; approximately 60 percent, more than half, go unreported.
Here are some things you can do if you or a loved one fall victim to an assault:
- Go to a safe location away from the attacker.
- Seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you do not have any visible physical injuries, you may be injured or be at risk of becoming pregnant or acquiring a sexually-transmitted disease.
- Contact a VA or SARC.
- If you suspect you may have been drugged, request that a urine sample be taken.
- Preserve all evidence of the assault. Do not bathe, wash your hands or your brush your teeth.
- Do not clean or straighten up the crime scene.
- Write down or record by any means, all details you can recall about the events that took place and about your assailant.
For more information, contact your command SARC or VA and if you or someone you know becomes a victim of an attempted sexual assault or rape immediately call the duty cell at 478-8615.