By Peggy Moore-McCoy, Buckley Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
/ Published July 12, 2011
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo-- -- It's Sunday, 1:15 a.m., and the Sexual Assault 24/7 Helpline rings. On the line with the on-call Victim Advocate is an active duty member who was referred to the nearest military installation through the DoD Safe Helpline, a confidential and anonymous sexual assault hotline for the DoD community.
The military member is in need of assistance following an assault. Complications arise because the victim is on temporary duty assignment( TDY), and escaping the alleged offender, a "friend," resulted in being stranded.
The victim knew the "friend" and friend's spouse for over two years, and it was not unusual for them to invite the active duty member to visit them during TDY assignments, which included transporting the member to and from the TDY location. On this occasion, however, the visit resulted in a traumatic experience because of the assault. In order to remain safe, the victim departed the friend's house in the middle of the night, consequently ending up in a strange neighborhood, in a strange city without transportation.
The handoff to the local base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response 24/7 Helpline via the DoD Safe Helpline initiated a series of events for assistance that included various civilian helping agencies as well as military personnel. The base Victim Advocate ensured the survivor was not in immediate danger from the alleged offender, but there was concern about getting to a safe location like a nearby hotel, since the member had no form of transportation.
The Victim Advocate advised the member to contact the local police department to report the crime and receive assistance. Local law enforcement responded to the call, giving the member travel instructions to a nearby convenience store, which provided an immediate safe, public place to meet. Once the incident report was taken, the patrol officers ensured the safety and well-being of the military member by providing transportation to a hotel, not a typical practice for civilian law enforcement.
It's now 1:30pm and the local military installation commander has authorized the use of a military vehicle to transport the victim back to the TDY location. The member's TDY commander was notified of the incident and the unit's First Sergeant was also included in determining the best course of action for the well-being of the victim and the achievement of the mission. The victim, with the guidance and support of leadership, remained to complete the TDY mission.
Several other agencies and personnel, both civilian and military, are now added into the mix. The victim's home station SARC and command were notified, putting into place a support system that would be operational once the member returned home. The TDY commander notified the local Office of Special Investigations, who consulted with the civilian law enforcement agency in charge. Another Victim Advocate, who was stationed geographically closer to the victim, was assigned, and both military and civilian mental health counselors were made available.
This was a TDY assignment that no military member should have to endure as a result of a traumatic event, a sexual assault. However, the ending is one of hope, that future survivors will be encouraged to seek. It is also one that allows us to take pride in the changes we have achieved in the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program as well as the successful partnerships developed between our military program and civilian community helping agencies.
Our military member received the support of several installation commanders, as well as First Sergeants, SARCs, Victim Advocates, military mental health counselors, civilian counselors, OSI agents, and countless civilian law enforcement personnel. The "community," consisting of numerous organizations acting with one accord, rallied to the support of a victim of sexual assault. This venture would not have been as successful without the determined efforts and collaboration of all the components.
Months have gone by since that 1:15 a.m., Sunday morning phone call. Our active duty member is a survivor, healing from the trauma of sexual assault with the support of unit leadership, home station SARC and Victim Advocate, counselors, OSI investigators, civilian investigators, and family. The alleged offender is currently under investigation by civilian authorities and may face state sexual assault crime penalties and be forced to register as a sex offender.
This crime has had resounding repercussions on so many. The survivor, with the help of his support system, will hopefully heal from the trauma of his sexual assault. The alleged offender will hopefully be held accountable by the judicial system, but his family will share in the consequences of his criminal behavior. Most of us view sexual assault as a male-on-female crime. The victim in this particular case was male. The alleged offender was male. This case demonstrates a harsh reality of sexual assault, perhaps one that we do not want to acknowledge: sexual assault can happen to anyone, by anyone! What survivors should remember is that he or she is not alone -- there is a community to support him or her.
This case began with a phone call to the DoD Safe Helpline. As part of victim care, a key component of DoD efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault, Safe Helpline was launched as a new 24/7 crisis support hotline to provide "confidential, live, one-on-one" expert advice and information worldwide.
Safe Helpline is owned by the Department of Defense and operated by RAINN, the non-profit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and is available to adult Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members consistent with DoD SAPR policy and Coast Guard Service members. The Safe Helpline staff has been trained on the unique needs of those living and working in the DoD community and knows the recourses available on and off military installations around the world.
Military members in need of assistance may contact Safe Helpline:
Text: 55-247 (Inside the U.S.)
202-470-5546 (Outside the U.S.)