JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
The following answers were provided by Joint Base Charleston Sexual Assault Prevention and Response advocate, Susie Griggs. Griggs and other advocates of the JB Charleston SAPRO are dedicated to giving victims/survivors a safe place to report, ensuring they are aware of their rights and resources as it relates to sexual assault. The JB Charleston SAPR advocates are reachable 24/7 at 843-963-7272.
- What constitutes sexual assault?
The Air Force defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, physical threat, abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent.
- How can those engaging in sexual activity ensure they have consent?
Simply put, when in doubt, ask. When I have a conversation with our FTAC Airmen, I ask them to agree or disagree with the statement: “I know when to make my move because I am good at reading body language.” Most of the time I do not have a single Airmen who will say they are good at reading body language because, truth be told, not many of us, if any, are. The best and safest way to know that you have consent to sexual activity is to ask. Remember, consent is defined as words or overt acts indicating a freely given agreement to the sexual contact by a competent person. A competent person includes someone who is of legal age to give consent and someone who is not impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs.
- How much alcohol is too much alcohol when gaining or granting sexual activity?
While I would love to have a definitive answer for this, it really depends on how someone metabolizes alcohol. One drink may be one too many. We’re all realists in the SAPR office so our best advice is when in doubt, wait until you’re sober and obtain consent.
- Am I obligated to report if I am a victim of sexual assault?
No. The beauty of our program is that a victim/survivor can come in and report sexual assault . If they do not wish to report that is ok as well. We are here to provide resources where one can begin the healing process. However, if a victim tells a mandatory reporter (Commander, First Sergeant, supervisor or anyone in the victim’s chain of command, as well as law enforcement and legal personnel excluding Special Victim Counsel and Area Defense Counsel) it must be reported to law enforcement.
- What if I am aware of a sexual assault but am a third party? What should/can I do?
If someone is aware that a sexual assault has occurred, they can come and talk to us without giving the name of the victim. We would be able to give that person resources on ways they can best help and support the survivor. Another option is to encourage the individual to reach out to us so that we can give them resources. If a person other than the victim reports to a supervisor or goes to their First Sergeant for help, they need to realize that it takes away the reporting options of the survivor of sexual assault. When we empower the survivor of sexual assault to choose to report or not, it gives them back some of the power that was taken away from them during the assault.
- What are on-base services someone can utilize if they feel they’ve been a victim of SA?
If someone feels they’ve been a victim of sexual assault, I encourage them to contact our 24/7 Hotline at 843-963-7272 (SARC) to speak with one of our volunteer victim advocates who can advise them of the resources that may best fit their needs. Some of our on base resources include the Chapel, which is100% confidential, Mental Health and our healthcare professionals. Joint Base Charleston is privileged to have a Special Victim Counsel on station. This is a military attorney who only represents the interest of the victim/survivor.
- What are some off-base points of contact for victims?
The Medical University of South Carolina is the only facility in the area that provides Sexual Assault Forensic Exams to individuals who have been sexually assaulted. Charleston’s rape crisis center is called PAR, People Against Rape. For any adult sexual assault, they can be reached at their hotline 843-745-0144. PAR has a plethora of resources in the area as well as support groups. The Charleston Vet Center provides a variety of care and activities for active duty, reserve and retired members and their families, and can be reached at 843-789-7000. The DoD Safe Helpline is a 24/7 confidential resource for members of the DoD. Individuals can access one-on-one support, peer-to-peer support, information, resources and self-care exercises online and on their app 24/7. The DoD Safe Helpline can also provide resources for those who wish to help a friend, family member or co-worker as well. They can be contacted through their website, www.safehelpline.org or through phone at1-877-995-5247.
- If someone experiences SA what is the first thing they should do?
If you wish to have a forensic exam, the best thing to do is not shower. If you wish to change clothes, put the soiled clothing you were wearing into a paper bag and take them with you to the Medical University of South Carolina at 97 Jonathan Lucas Street, Charleston. If you wish to report the assault, the nurse on call will contact the SAPR office if you choose or you may do that before going to the hospital.
- Will someone have to testify if they make an unrestricted report?
If someone makes an unrestricted report, it is possible that they may have to testify, however, I have to defer this question to the Special Victim Counsel office as every case is different.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Despite these uncertain times during COVID-19, the SAPR Office is standing by ready to assist the members of Joint Base Charleston. If you have any questions or just need to talk, please contact us at 843-963-7272 and one of our qualified volunteer victim advocates will be able to assist you 24/7.