Saturday, April 06, 2013

Airmen tour agencies that help victims of sexual assault

by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the base began providing tours to First Term Airman Classes so they can meet with and know the locations of the agencies that are available to assist a victim after a sexual assault has occurred.

The first class tour March 28 visited the Office of Special Investigations, chapel, 375th Medical Group and legal offices, and met with the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Pamela Dorsey. She explained that these agencies are considered first responders for sexual assault-related incidents and would provide direct assistance through investigation, counseling, advocacy or emotional and spiritual support.

"I want our Airmen to have a better understanding of the services that are available to them and what they offer," said Dorsey. "I've received a lot of positive feedback from the Airmen who said they feel better prepared to respond and now know where to go. We'd ike to offer this to all our first-term Airmen throughout the year."

During the tour, OSI's Special Agent Steve Houghton briefed on the investigative process and how they conduct interviews with sexual assault victims. He also discussed OSI's relationship with the SARC and victim advocates.

"These young Airmen are our target group as well as all Airmen who've been in the service for less than three years. I want them to understand early on the Air Force stance on sexual assault."

Next, the 375th AMW deputy chaplain, Maj. Ken Johnson, discussed the chapel's role in working through the trauma with the victim.

"We provide 100 percent confidentiality for the victim. We build rapport with the victim and provide a safe environment. We can also refer them to the SARC, VA or a health care provider," he said.

At the 375th MDG, Capt. Connie Burnette, chief of mental health, described how seeing a mental health professional is no different than seeing a doctor when people are sick.

"Going to mental health is a sign of strength," Burnette said. "Doctors work to heal you--to get you better and return to work ... we provide the same service."

The legal office's Capt. Erin Dixon talked about evidence required to have a court martial. She explained the Victim Witness Assistance Program and how they keep the victim informed throughout the legal process. She also explained the newly-formed Special Victims Council, which provides a lawyer with specialized training in handling sexual assault cases to better assist the victim.

At the SARC's office, Dorsey not only explained her role, but also shared information on how the VA provides support throughout the entire process.

For 19 year-old Airman Joseph Martin, 375th MDG logistics technician, the tour opened "his eyes to all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes when dealing with a sexual assault victim."

He added, "It helped me get a better understanding of how the operational side works, and what I would need to do if I or a Wingman became a victim of sexual assault."

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