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Hurts one, Hurts all; April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Pamela A. Davis | | April 23, 2010

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The month of April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  This year’s theme is “Hurts one, Affects all. Preventing sexual assault is everyone’s duty.”

The 2010 campaign focuses on the effects that sexual assault has on the military’s mission readiness. Both the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps place high value on sexual assault prevention and response efforts as a way to reinforce the good order and discipline necessary for an effective fighting force to accomplish its mission. 

Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact characterized by the use of force, physical threat, or abuse of authority when the victim does not, or cannot consent.               

The negative consequences of sexual assault causes a ripple effect, starting with the victim and expanding outward to include families, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, and community members.

“Hurts one, Affects all,” conveys the ripple effect theory.

Sexual assault can have the same effect on a military unit and diminish the ability of a servicemember, unit and command to function proficiently.  It is imperative that we as Marines and civilian Marines address the issue in a meaningful way.

Sexual Assault is the most unreported crime in our society and in the military.  While the DoD prefers the complete reporting of sexual assaults to activate both victims’ services and law enforcement actions, it recognizes that some victims desire only medical and support services and no command or law enforcement involvement. 

The DoD’s priority is for victims to be protected, treated with dignity and respect, and to receive the medical treatment, care and counseling that they deserve.  Under the DoD’s confidentiality policy, military victims of sexual assault have two reporting options ─ restricted and unrestricted reporting.  Military retirees, dependents, and other civilian victims currently may use only unrestricted reporting.

Unrestricted reporting is recommended for victims of sexual assault who desire medical treatment, counseling and an official investigation of the crime.  When selecting unrestricted reporting, victims should use current reporting channels through their chain of command, law enforcement, report the incident to the Sexual Assault Response coordinator, or request healthcare providers to notify law enforcement.  Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC will immediately assign a uniformed victim advocate or victim advocate.  At the victim’s discretion/request, the healthcare provider shall conduct a sexual assault forensic examination, which may include the collection of evidence.  Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know.

Restricted reporting allows a sexual assault victim to confidentially disclose the details of his or her assault to specified individuals and receive medical treatment and counseling, without triggering an official investigative process.  Service members who are sexually assaulted and desire restricted reporting under this policy may only report the assault to the SARC, UVA, VA, or a healthcare provider.  However, consistent with current policy, they may also report the assault to a chaplain.  Although a report to a chaplain is not a restricted report under this policy or the provisions of this directive, it is a communication that may be protected under the Military Rules of Evidence or applicable statutes and regulations.

Restricted reporting is available at this time only to military personnel of the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard.  Military personnel include members on active duty and in the reserves, provided they are performing federal duty. Members of the Reserve Component not performing federal duty are ineligible.  Retired members of any component, dependents and DoD civilian employees are not eligible.

If you have been sexually assaulted or think you have been:

·     Go to a safe location away from the attacker.

·     Contact your local UVA.

·     Seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you do not have any visible physical injuries, you may be at risk of becoming pregnant or acquiring a sexually-transmitted disease.

For more information on the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, call  (619) 524-0465 or your local UVA.


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