Misawa takes clear stance against sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Allison Day
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Sexual assault is a crime which is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not, or cannot consent.

Sexual assault includes: rape; indecent assault, which is unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; nonconsensual sodomy; or attempts to commit these acts.

Sexual assault can occur without regard to gender or spousal relationship or age of victim.

The Air Force has a zero tolerance policy; and here at Misawa this policy is reflected from the wing commander to all levels.

"This is an important subject that we all need to be aware of," said Brig. Gen. Sam Angelella, 35th Fighter Wing commander. "We take sexual assault very seriously, which is why we have our own dedicated sexual assault response coordinator."

The SARC is the eyes and ears of the general in all matters dealing with reports of sexual assault.

"We encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward," said Capt. Angela Batts, 35th FW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

There are two primary types of reporting -- restricted and unrestricted, which apply to all active duty, Guard and Reserve.

If restricted reporting is chosen, then the incident is reported to the SARC and in turn a medical treatment facility, a victim advocate or the chaplain.

If a victim chooses unrestricted reporting medical care and counseling are also provided.

Adult dependents and Department of Defense employees can only file an unrestricted report. Additionally, the Office of Special Investigations is notified and an investigation is initiated. The appropriate squadron commanders are also notified.

"Cases of restricted reporting gives the victim additional time, increased control over the release and management of personal information," said Captain Batts. "Many victims need the extra time, which empowers them to seek relevant information (and support) to make an informed decision about participating in the criminal process."

Although a victim may have filed a restricted report, they have up to one year if he or she chooses to file an unrestricted report.

There's also a third type of reporting that doesn't happen often, but everyone needs to be aware of it, Captain Batts said. Restricted cases can become an independent case when someone who knows about the sexual assault reports it.

"Unfortunately, many incidents of sexual assault go unreported," said Capt. Kathryn Miller, 35th FW assistant staff judge advocate and chief of adverse actions. "It is important for victims of sexual assault to come forward, so that we may hold offenders accountable for their actions and prevent them from committing this crime again."

Whether victims of sexual assault choose restricted or unrestricted reporting there is a support system in place for them.

"Life Skills is available and provides essential clinical support for the victim," said Captain Batts. "We also have trained victim advocates who are skilled in their support of sexual assault victims."

Victim advocates provide crisis intervention, referral, ongoing non-clinical support, and other information and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions about the case.

"Victim advocates will provide any essential support as necessary to care for the victim until this support is no longer needed," she added.

Air Force courts martial have highlighted the fact that sexual assault takes many forms. Since there is a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault, it is helpful to know an example of what makes this a crime.

An innocent night in the club with a group of friends drinking could ultimately lead to a criminal incident if a perpetrator takes advantage of a victim while intoxicated, one official said.

"If you are intoxicated and incapacitated you can't give consent," said Captain Batts. "This is sexual assault. A gender was not mentioned because anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator."

Feelings of guilt, shame and fear are not uncommon among victims of sexual assault, and it is important to know there is help.

"All supervisors, first sergeants and commanders are obligated to report any knowledge of a sexual assault to OSI," said Captain Batts. "Although current Air Force policy doesn't require other Air Force members to report an incident of sexual assault, I encourage anyone with any knowledge of a sexual assault to report it to OSI immediately. Understand that sexual assault goes against our core values and there's no room in the Air Force for this crime."