Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany --
Col. C.N. Haliday, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., joined in proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month here as part of the national awareness effort.
Speaking during annual training and a holiday safety brief class Friday, Haliday explained the importance of the problem and the need to address it.
Sexual assault victims have two options available to them following an attack.
If the victim is an active duty Marine, they may choose not to report the incident to law enforcement and keep the incident restricted, while still requesting support services.
“If a victim wants to remain in a restricted category following the incident, they sign documentation to that effect, and no one is notified at that time,” said Jamie Hurst, victim advocate, Marine and Family Services, Marine Corps Community Services, MCLB Albany. “But the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator here would notify the base commanding officer of the incident without providing the victim’s identification.”
Hurst serves as both a domestic assault and sexual assault victim advocate.
Unrestricted status following a sexual assault allows the reporting of the incident to law enforcement and other agencies that need to become involved.
“In a restricted case, I am the face of the victim to the command,” said Paula Caserio, SARC, Marine Corps Family Team Building, MCCS, MCLB Albany. “They are able to have anonymity and we are able to provide services for them.”
One goal of a restricted case is to provide a victim time to decide a future course of action.
The victim advocate provides essential support and care to the victim to include providing non-clinical information on available options and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions as they progress through resolution and healing.
The victim advocate maintains communications and contact with the victim as needed for continued support.
Also, the victim advocate reports directly to the SARC for victim advocate duties.
The SARC is considered the center of gravity when it comes to ensuring that victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care.
They serve as the single point of contact to coordinate sexual assault victim care.
The term SARC is a standardized term used throughout the Department of Defense and the other services to facilitate communication and transparency regarding sexual assault.
The SARC reports directly to a senior installation or geographic commander.
“If a military member comes to us and says ‘I was raped on Saturday night and I don’t want to say anything,’ we go through the pros and cons as far as restricting or not restricting the case,” said Hurst.
If a military member decides to keep the case restricted, no authorities are notified except for the base commanding officer who is briefed by the SARC who will provide information without providing names.
“The Department of Defense enacted this process for all the services because they wanted to provide victims the opportunity to come forward because they may have been assaulted by someone in their unit who is in their chain of command and they might fear repercussions if they came forward,” added Hurst.
With restricted status, a rape kit of forensic evidence is gathered and a victim has up to one year to change their mind and decide to proceed with prosecution, conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“But if someone chooses restricted status in an incident, then tells friends or family about it and the word gets out, then they lose the restricted status and law enforcement will take action on the case,” Hurst stated.
When the 12-month date approaches following an incident, a victim is advised of the fact.
“If they choose not to prosecute, the evidence is destroyed and there is no case brought,” said Caserio.
Also, victims should seek medical care as soon as possible.
Even if they do not have any visible physical injuries, they may be at risk of becoming pregnant or acquiring a sexually transmitted disease.
Victims should also ask healthcare personnel to conduct a sexual assault forensic examination to preserve forensic evidence.
If a victim suspects they have been drugged, they should request that a urine sample be collected.
Preserve all evidence of the assault. Do not bathe, wash your hands or brush your teeth. Do not clean or straighten up the crime scene.
Write down, tape or record by any other means all the details about the assault and the assailant.
For individuals who have been sexually assaulted, experts ask that they go to a safe location away from the attacker and contact a SARC or a victim advocate.
The hotline number to contact Military One Source 24/7 for restricted/unrestricted reporting, local SARC and victim advocate points of contact and established DoD sexual assault services are, nationwide: 1-800-342-9647, overseas: 00-800-3429-6477, overseas collect: 1-484-530-5908.
Contact phone numbers for the MCLB Albany victim advocate is (229) 639-7938 and for the MCLB Albany SARC, (229) 639-5767.