NEWS | Dec. 31, 2014

Sexual assault prevention program offers avenues for help

By Staff Sgt. William A. O'Brien Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Becoming a victim of sexual assault is traumatic, so receiving medical care and support as quickly as possible is crucial to a survivor's safety and recovery.
The Joint Base Charleston Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are here to assist and lead victims through the process of receiving medical care and to guide survivors through the programs providing that much needed support.

SARCs handle the sexual assault reporting process and help survivors understand the differences in the sexual assault reporting system and whether to file a restricted or unrestricted report.

When an unrestricted report is filed, an investigation is opened by the Office of Special Investigations or the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the survivor's command is notified.

If a survivor chooses to file an unrestricted report, they are also given the option of an expedited transfer.

"The expedited transfer allows the member to start the rebuilding process," said Florine King, JB Charleston - Air Base SARC. "The transfer allows them to move to a base closer to their home or family."

If an individual chooses to file a restricted report instead, the only people involved will be the SARC, a Victim's Advocate and/or medical personnel. Restricted reporting allows for the individual to have control over the process. 

"Restricted reporting is confidential, there is no investigation, and no one in the chain of command is notified; but the individual still gets an opportunity to talk to a special victim's counsel," said King.

If a victim discloses any information regarding the sexual assault to a service member within their chain of command, that military or civilian member is legally required to report the assault. Under these circumstances, the report automatically becomes unrestricted. The survivor can also choose to file an unrestricted report themselves.

"An unrestricted report can be stressful for the victim as it now becomes a legal investigation, so I always advise military members to come talk to me before deciding," said King.

Regardless of the type of report being filed, every survivor is provided medical care, a VA who can guide the survivor to any resources they might need and give them care and understanding as they work through to reclaim their life.

Aside from guiding victims through the process of receiving medical care and their reporting options, SARCs also run the Sexual Assault Prevention Program, to reduce assaults all together.

"We want to prevent sexual assaults before they even happen," said King. "My primary role is to assist victims of sexual assault, but my secondary role is to bring awareness to this crime and prevent sexual assaults all together."

King, and Tiffany Mizzell, the JB Charleston - Weapons Station SARC, both have teams of volunteer victim advocates who ensure victims receive the care and support they need. As a SARC, King provides a safe environment and an avenue for military victims of sexual assault to seek help and maintain confidentiality when reporting the assaults. Victim Advocates are available 24- hours a day, seven days a week.
SARCs also teach bystander intervention.

"We teach direct, indirect, distraction and protocol for bystander intervention," said Mizzell. "Whether directly approaching the individual in a high risk situation or identifying the potential perpetrator and preventing the assault, the key is getting that potential victim out of that situation."

If a bystander identifies a potential sexual assault situation but is afraid to directly resolve it themselves, they can use the indirect approach, addressing the situation within a group setting or contacting someone in the chain of command to address the situation.

"The indirect approach can be done by going to a group of friends and getting the person at risk away from the situation by approaching that person within the group, or creating a distraction by any means," said Mizzell. "Telling them their car is being towed or by using any means you can to extract them from the situation. The indirect approach can also work by going to someone in charge. In a bar, talk to the bar tender or security. Call law enforcement if you think somebody's in a truly high risk situation and have the authorities address the problem."

King and Mizzell have been increasing the Sexual Assault Prevention Program by getting out and talking face to face with Airman, Sailors and civilians. They have an open door policy and encourage all base personnel interested about the program to come by their offices so they can answer any questions they may have. 

"Our doors are always open," said King. "We want individuals to feel comfortable coming forward. We are here to support them. They're in control when they cross the threshold into this program and we support them 100 percent."

The Air Base SARC can be reached at (843) 963-7881 and the after-hours number is (843) 963-7272, which is the on-call victim advocate hotline. The Weapons Station SARC can be reached at (843) 276-9855, and the 24/7 on-call Victim Advocate telephone number is (843) 478-8615.

For more information about the SAPR program visit: www.sapr.mil, www.donsapro.navy.mil or www.cnic.navy.mil. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a SAPR Victim Advocate please contact: Tiffany Mizzell, Weapon Station SARC at 794-7428 or, Florine King, JB Charleston SARC at 963-7272.