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McConnell program provides safe haven for sexual assault victims

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Ashley Conner
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Something very bad happened. Feelings of guilt and shame are associated with it. Who do I talk with? Everyone will think it is my fault. 

These reactions are similar to those of someone who has been sexually assaulted. The difference at McConnell is victims of sexual assault do have a place to go. 

The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Point of Contact, James Quattlebaum, offers victims a few different options for reporting sexual assault and provides assistance through various support agencies. 

"There are two types of reporting we offer to active duty members. One is restricted reporting. It allows members to report sexual assault to the SARC POC or a health care provider and be seen by support agencies without notifying command or initiate the investigative process by AFOSI or Security Forces," said Mr. Quattlebaum. 

"The other type of reporting is unrestricted. In addition to the support services offered, command is notified and the crime will be investigated. We hope all victims choose to pursue legal action but restricted reporting gives victims some time after the incident to recover and make an informed decision before going through the stress of an investigation." 

The Department of Defense-mandated Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program was created after a series of Congressional, Department of Defense, and Air Force studies on sexual assault in the military. 

According to Mr. Quattlebaum, sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in the nation. Studies reveal that 82 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported. One of the major thrusts of the studies was to determine why individuals were reluctant to report sexual assault. 

A separate Air Force study, in which bases worldwide were surveyed, sought to determine how the Air Force could improve its sexual assault reporting procedures.
The report revealed that past reporting procedures focused too intently on the investigation and not on the victim's well-being. It also made known that, in the past, there was not one person or a single office to handle sexual assault reports, which created inconsistencies on how reports were handled. 

Some of the reasons why military members don't report sexual assault are due to the fear of the stigma attached with victims of sexual assault cases, fear that the victim will be blamed, fear of being re-victimized during the investigation or having to 'relive it,' and how it will affect duty status and supervisors' perception of them. 

"Help is here. It is available. Don't allow these heinous acts to silence you," said Mr. Quattlebaum.