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Team MacDill tackles delicate subject of assault

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
TThunderbolt Editor

In view of recent reports concerning the handling of sexual assault cases, General John W. Handy, commander, Air Mobility Command, directed three teams visit all 12 AMC installations to review each base's sexual assault response programs. Part of what that team will find here is that Team MacDill is committed to taking care of its people and has support programs in place to assist any person that has been a victim of sexual assault.

Brig. Gen. (Sel.) Tanker Snyder, 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, welcomed the AMC Assessment Team's objective look at MacDill's programs, policies and procedures.

"Sexual assault is a crime and there is no place for it in our Air Force," said General Snyder. "We will continue with our own evaluation to determine if we are doing everything we can to prevent sexual assault, support victims and hold offenders accountable."

A team was already in place here to handle any reports of sexual assault. Some of those team members include; the base Judge Advocate, Military Equal Opportunity, Inspector General, base chaplains, the Office of Special Investigations and Security Forces.

"This working group consists of all agencies that that could play a role in responding to a sexual assault or a victim," said General Snyder. "They have already looked at our response capabilities and we have chartered an action plan to further strengthen our programs."

Lt. Col. Patti Parker, 6th Medical Operations Squadron deputy commander and team leader, said although the existing procedures are solid, there is always room for improvement.

Some of the areas Team MacDill is looking to further develop include: expanding the forums for sexual assault briefings such as Airman Leadership School, the Civilian Supervisors Course, Right Start and First Term Airman's Center; partnering with civilian counterparts to receive further training for key members of response agencies; and finally, establishing a checklist for supervisors as a reference to know appropriate actions to take for a victim.

"We need to ensure the environment we create is conducive for victims to come forward" said General Snyder. "A high priority is always to ensure we are providing a safe and healthy living, working, and training environment for every Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, civilian worker and family member at MacDill. When a charge is brought to our attention, we will investigate it promptly and if the allegations are substantiated, we will take appropriate disciplinary action."

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, the term encompasses any unwanted sexual contact or threats. A sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person's consent.

Some types of sexual acts which fall under the category of sexual assault include forced sexual intercourse, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape, said the NVSC. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks.

Any form of sexual assault is a devastating crime. Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends or family members. Many factors can influence an individual's response to, and recovery from, sexual assault. These may include the age and developmental maturity of the victim, the social support network available to the victim and the victim's relationship to the offender. Any sexual assault victim should be prepared to talk about their victimization many times before ever having to testify before a trial, jury or judge.

However, many sexual assault victims report that choosing to follow through contributes to a feeling of accomplishment and empowerment because they are attempting to protect themselves and others in the community from being victimized. Many victims also report the attempt to put their assailant(s) in jail allows for a feeling of closure.

"In any case, the Air Force will not tolerate sexual assault, period," said General Snyder.

How to report sexual assault(s)

Immediately after an assault, it is most important that the victim find a safe place, such as a neighbor or friend's house, police station, or hospital. If the assault occurred in the home, the house should be secured as soon as possible by locking all the doors and windows.

If a victim is hurt, it is imperative to immediately dial 911 to request an ambulance or have a trusted friend or relative transport the victim to the nearest medical facility for evaluation and treatment.

The Victim, Witness Assistance Program is a federally mandated program in place here at MacDill designed to provide legal aid for sexual assault victims. They can be reached at 828-8927.

It may prove helpful for the victim to immediately write down everything they can remember about the assault including: what the assailant(s) looked like (e.g., height, weight, scars, tattoos, hair color, clothes); any unusual odor; any noticeable signs of intoxication; anything the assailant(s) said during the assault; what kinds of sexual activities were demanded and/or carried out; what kinds of weapons, threats or physical force were used; and any special traits noticed (e.g., limp, speech impediments, use of slang, etc.)

Writing it down will not only aid the victim in recalling details should they be required to testify, but it also gives the sexual assault survivor an active role in the investigation, which can allow for a feeling of empowerment and an element of control in a situation where control had previously been taken away.

The decision to report a sexual assault lies within the discretion of the sexual assault victim. If a sexual assault victim plans to report the assault to law enforcement, it is crucial for evidentiary reasons that they do not: Shower, bathe or douche
Throw away any clothes that were worn at the time of the assault
Brush or comb their hair
Use the restroom
Brush their teeth or gargle
Put on makeup
Clean/straighten up the crime scene
Eat or drink anything
Whether or not a sexual assault victim chooses to report the assault to the authorities, there is support and help for the survivor in most communities. The rape crisis or VWAP advocates will work with a victim no matter what course of action they choose to pursue. (The National Center for Victims of Crime contributed to this article)




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