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Eielson conducts SAPR stand-down day

Posted 4/25/2014   Updated 4/25/2014 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/25/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Eielson members participated in the first of two Sexual Assault and Prevention Response stand-down days this year April 18.

The day followed an order from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that all military services set aside time each year to inform service members and Defense Department civilians of their role in eliminating sexual assault and taking steps to foster a zero-tolerance culture.

"We spend a lot of time and energy 'taking care of Airmen,'" said Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th Fighter Wing commander. "We can provide them the finest housing, give them the best dorms possible, have the best contract food in the dining facility possible, but if we don't protect their dignity, then we have absolutely failed them and this [subject] is the worst kind of assault on dignity that I can think of."

Squadron commanders also spoke with their units and Icemen met in their work centers to learn about and engage in discussions on sexual assault awareness, the current issues and how to identify and eliminate perpetrator behaviors that can lead to a sexual assault.

"The goal of the day was to make sure everyone understands how perpetrators operate within our ranks and how to overcome their damaging influence," said 354th FW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator 1st Lt. Edward Ramirez. "It's our responsibility to ensure Icemen truly understand how to hold each other accountable and promote healthy and professional environments."

Throughout the day, groups discussed the importance of the program, the resources available for prevention and reporting, and the steps everyone can take to stop a sexual assault from occurring. Leaders discussed definitions of consent, sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual contact, recognizing a perpetrator and making a difference to help prevent an assault.

"There's nothing more important than our sons and daughters. I have a son and a daughter and I can't imagine having this discussion with them," said Kelly, "and because of that, we are having this discussion. It's important enough for our chief of staff, it's important enough for three-star generals and it's important enough for us to talk about today."

In January 2013, the Air Force began taking aggressive steps to address sexual assault, implementing a Special Victim's Council for victims to receive legal representation and advocacy, and last summer expedited transfers were made available for victims.

Among other changes, all investigations related to sexual assault are now performed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and a comprehensive online access tool for evidence collection has been created, called DSAID, or Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database.

In addition, the Air Force Audit Agency is conducting a review of SARC office credentials and qualifications; all SARCs and victim advocates must now be credentialed through the National Organization for Victim Assistance, which began in October 2013.

"All civilian and military personnel received refresher training on professional responsibilities, bystander intervention, culture change and how sexual assault impacts mission readiness," Ramirez said.

Victims of sexual assault have two reporting options available to them. A restricted report is an option for all military members and their dependents over the age of 18. This type of report provides resources for healing and allows an examination to be conducted with the evidence preserved, but the incident remains confidential and is not reported for investigation unless the victim decides to go forward with an unrestricted report.

"It's important to keep in mind that victims lose the ability to make a restricted report if their (or their sponsor's) chain of command or law enforcement is made aware of the incident," said Ramirez. "Victims must contact the SARC office or a medical provider directly if they want to maintain the ability to make a restricted report."

An unrestricted report is any report which triggers an investigation into allegations of sexual assault, and is made through normal reporting channels such as a victim's supervisor, first sergeant or commander, law enforcement agency, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations or any other investigative service. If service members elect to file an unrestricted report, those in the member's chain of command who have a "need to know" are the only people who are informed of the case.

Eielson's SARC office and SARC victim advocate volunteers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to incidents. They can be contacted by calling 377-7208, the SARC hotline at 377-7272 or the victim advocate hotline at (907) 978-9853.

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