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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Education key to sexual assault prevention

By Jason Webb, Public Affairs Specialist | | October 7, 2010

According to a recent comment made to Joint Force Quarterly by the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps spends more per capita on its Marines than any other service.

This equates to 58 percent of the Corps’ annual budget, and the majority of the money goes to improving the overall quality of life for Marines.

Part of unit cohesion is having a high level of mental wellness within a group, and the Department of Defense noted this in its fiscal 2009 Annual Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Report. In the report, the DoD noted that sexual assaults had risen 11 percent over the last year throughout the services, and active preventive measures should be taken to educate all Marines about sexual assault prevention.

According to numbers released for fiscal year 2009, the Pentagon reported 3,230 incidents of sexual assault. The Pentagon said the overall rate for all the services was two reports of sexual assault per 1,000 service members. The rates by service: the Army, 2.6 per 1,000; the Navy, 1.6 per 1,000; the Air Force, 1.4 per 1,000; the Marine Corps, 1.3 per 1,000.

Although the Marine Corps had the fewest sexual assaults per capita in the DoD, the Marine Corps has traditionally taken sexual assault seriously and has a strict policy of reporting and advocacy care.

“Sexual assault is a criminal act that is incompatible with our core values of honor, courage and commitment,” said Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, in a recent white policy letter. “Acts of sexual assault will not be tolerated. All military and civilian personnel aboard this installation are to take prompt and appropriate action to ensure they or others are not involved in any way with sexual assault.”

The DoD defined sexual assault in its FY 2009 study as “intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive or wrongful (to include unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commit these acts.”

Part of the commanding officer’s policy toward curbing incidents of sexual assault is by entrusting his base sexual assault response coordinator to provide responsive help and also prevent future sexual assaults through education.

Jamie Hurst, sexual assault response coordinator, Marine and Family Services, MCLB Albany, is in charge of the program, and with the help of three uniformed victim advocates, she and her staff provide help 24 hours a day for victims of sexual assault.

Hurst said with the help of her UVAs, victims can discuss all aspects of an alleged sexual assault with complete confidentiality. The UVAs are different than other uniformed service members. As fully-trained sexual assault advocates, they listen and coordinate services for an individual without notifying the chain of command in cases where the victim does not seek intervention other than counseling.

Hurst explained there are two types of reporting that can be done after a sexual assault has occurred to a military member.

The first example is restricted reporting. Under it, no investigation of the assault occurs. The chain of command, law enforcement personnel and other military authorities are not notified of the sexual assault. The emphasis is put on healing the victim and not prosecution of the alleged assailant.

Restricted reports can be made only to victim advocates, UVAs, health care providers, chaplains and sexual assault response coordinators. All other military members are required to report a sexual assault to law enforcement or to their commands.

The second is the unrestricted report, and it discloses the victim of sexual assault for the purpose of starting an official criminal investigation. The chain of command is notified, and allows the commander to

initiate the full range of protections and rights available to the victim, in addition to all the services and assistance available in restricted reporting.

The report is not confidential; however, privacy is a foremost consideration. The offender’s command is responsible for deciding whether or not to prosecute the case.

In each case, Hurst stresses that a restricted report can be unrestricted within one year of seeking assistance and an investigation could then be initiated.

“Fellow service members are bound by the (Uniform Code of Military Justice) to report any possibility of a crime,” she said. “Victims have to know they can’t talk to their best friend in uniform if they are considering a restricted report. These individuals (UVAs) wear a uniform and have the ability to maintain the same level of confidentiality. They can discuss any aspect with the victim and not a fellow service member.”

Although the base has defined policies for service members who are victims of sexual assault, civilian-Marines receive the same level of mental and physical care.

Hurst said that although UVAs cannot offer the services to civilian-Marines, the base has established a partnership with Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center in Albany. Sexual assault victims can file both restricted and unrestricted reports, and the SARC will provide continuous follow-up care.

She said education is paramount and the first step to prevent sexual assaults.

“It’s just as important to educate Marines on the facts as to what could be perceived as being a perpetrator of a sexual assault,” Hurst said. “If you proceed with having sex with an individual who is intoxicated, incapacitated or if they are asleep, you could be unintentionally perceived as being a sexual predator and be held accountable.”

For more information about sexual assault prevention, the MCLB Albany SARC and UVA program, call (229) 639-7938 or (229) 881-3883, after working hours.

Additional numbers for sexual assault victims:

MCLB Family Advocacy/Counseling Services

(229) 639-5252, office

Lily Pad Sexual Assault Response Center

(229) 435-0074

Liberty House Women’s Shelter

(229) 439-7094

Military One Source

1-800-342-9647, 24-hours a day/7-days a week