MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Picture this: You go out partying with friends.
As a group, you follow all the established Marine Corps rules: Motorcycle riders wear helmets; those who are drinking have designated drivers; no one gets left behind at the bar; everyone makes it home safe.
However, the next morning, you wake up and realize something is very, very wrong. You had a designated driver, so you made it home to your own bed, but have a hangover like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
Your clothing has been removed, and your body does not feel like it should. You suspect someone may have done something to you sexually, but you cannot remember much past leaving the club. What could, or would, you do?
Sexual assault occurs more often than most people realize. This is true both for the general population as well as for those serving in the Marine Corps.
“Like drug use we will show zero tolerance for those who perpetrate sexual assault,” Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, said. “It is counter to Marine Corps’ core values. It is disruptive to good order and discipline. It destroys unit cohesion and morale, and most importantly, it’s a crime.”
Highly publicized cases may hold public interest because of who the alleged perpetrator is; these trials may go on for months. What many people do not realize is that reports of sexual assaults are not common. Even rarer is getting a conviction of an alleged perpetrator.
The Department of Defense and the branches of military services have recognized the harsh realities of sexual assault in their midst.
According to the 2010 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault, 3,158 rapes and sexual assaults were reported by men and women serving in all branches of the armed forces. There were more than 200 rapes and sexual assaults reported by Marines during that same time frame. As shocking as those numbers may be, consider this: DoD reports that number likely only reflects 13.5 percent of actual sexual assaults that took place.
Nearly 85 percent of military men and women who have experienced the trauma of sexual assault never reported what happened to them.
Take into account that Department of Navy’s anonymous surveys indicate that most victims of sexual assault, male and female, range in age between 18-24 years.
Their victims are younger, may have just joined the military, and therefore may be more vulnerable because they may feel unable to report a more senior attacker.
“We need to ensure that we do not make the victims feel like they are the guilty party,” Williams said. “You wouldn’t blame a rich man who got robbed withdrawing money from a teller machine in a bad area for getting robbed. So why would you blame the victim of a sexual assault? If we want to address the low reporting problem then we need to ensure victims of sexual assault understand they are not to blame for being assaulted. The perpetrator is!”
The Navy and Marine Corps have established highly-visible interventions at each command to counteract sexual assaults and also to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Sexual assault response coordinators along with uniformed victim advocates are working together to ensure victims have choices.
They are also working to train Marines and Sailors how to intervene to prevent sexual misconduct that can destroy unit cohesion and that is counter to the Marine Corps’ core values: honor, courage and commitment.
Uniformed victim advocates are first-line responders. Available to victims 24/7, they are Marines who have received specialized training to help victims understand their options regarding reporting a sexual assault, knowing the limitations that each offers, and having a helping hand to get through a traumatic, life-altering experience.
SARCs work with UVAs to ensure victims are receiving timely access to medical, legal and other resources as appropriate.
They also work with the commanders to let them know the status of cases and report the disposition of ongoing cases to Headquarters Marine Corps.
As important as intervening is helping victims, equally important is the charge to prevent sexual assault before it happens.
One of the key components of prevention is active bystander intervention.
Just as Marines have been asked to intervene with each other to prevent deaths and injuries from drunk driving or suicide, they are now being asked to recognize when a fellow Marine may be making a decision that could impact his or her career.
For more information, call (229) 881-3883.
Restricted versus Unrestricted Reporting
Paraphrased from Marine Corps Order P1752.5A
Restricted reporting means the following:
* Law enforcement is not aware of the assault/rape.
* Victim has told only a UVA, SARC, mental health counselor, or chaplain about the assault.
* Victim will have full access to needed medical and counseling services.
* A forensic exam can be done to collect evidence, however, no further investigation can take place.
* Victim has the option to report, as long as the assault remains unknown to the command.
Unrestricted reporting means the following:
* The rape or assault was reported to law enforcement, a command official, or other mandated reporter.
* A full investigation of the perpetrator will begin, with involvement of law enforcement agencies as appropriate (Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Criminal Investigative Division and civilian law enforcement).
* Command has a responsibility to separate the victim and perpetrator; how this is done is at commander’s discretion.
* A legal case can be brought against the perpetrator.
* If a victim has chosen a restricted report, but then threatens to harm himself or others, there may be no choice but to report to the command in order to prevent injury to the victim or others.