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SAAPM: Protecting our people protects our mission

Altus Air Force Base is holding several events throughout April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The intent of the events is to spread awareness and show support for victims of sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Nathan Clark/Released)

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Each year, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office brings awareness to SAAPM by creating a theme to deliver messages that relate on both the individual and unit level. The 2017 SAAPM theme is "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission." (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Nathan Clark)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Each year, the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office brings awareness to SAAPM by creating a theme to deliver messages that relate on both the individual and unit level.

The 2017 SAAPM theme is "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission." The first part of the theme represents the most vital part of SAPR, protecting the people.

"Our Airmen are the most important and significant piece to the Air Force,” said Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander. “If we don’t watch out for each other and take care of each other, then we are letting them down. It’s everyone’s job to make sure we are all safe and respected.”

According to the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, all service members, regardless of their rank, must adhere to the values and standards of behavior to help eliminate inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.

The second half of the theme signifies the impact sexual assault can have on the mission.

According to the DoD, when inappropriate behavior or sexual assault occurs in the workplace, it affects unit cohesion and trust. This in turn, can lead to a stressful work environment, which not only affects the work, but can reduce the overall morale of the shop, making it an unpleasant place to be which then impacts the mission.

Staff Sgt. Angele Longbrake, 305th Maintenance Operations Squadron NCO in charge of maintenance data analysis and keynote speaker for the ceremony, said survivors should take small steps every day to not allow the situation to conquer them.

“It’s about healing and rediscovering yourself,” Longbrake said. “If someone you know or love is a survivor of an assault, you need to genuinely support them, so they can recover. Speak up, get help and remember it’s not your fault.”

Longbrake added that if someone looks like they need assistance to intervene. Ask them if they need help and stop the situation from getting worse. If needed, help them report the assault.

There are two options when reporting sexual assaults -- restricted and unrestricted.

Restricted reporting is a process used to report or disclose when someone has been sexually assaulted to specified officials on a requested confidential basis. Under these circumstances the survivor's report and any details provided to the SARC, healthcare personnel, SAPR victim advocate or a volunteer victim advocate will not be reported to law enforcement.  

A restricted report allows someone to receive legal advice and medical and advocacy services but does not trigger an investigation. A survivor has the option to change to an unrestricted report at a later time.  Communication with a military chaplain is protected and will not be shared, however, chaplains cannot accept a restricted report.

Unrestricted reporting is a process a person uses to disclose, without requesting confidentiality or restricted reporting, that he or she has been sexually assaulted. Under these circumstances, the survivor's report and any details provided to their chain of command, law enforcement, SARC, healthcare personnel, a SAPR victim advocate or volunteer victim advocate may be used to initiate an official investigation process. 

An unrestricted report allows someone to receive medical treatment, advocacy services and legal support. Survivor's may be eligible for other protections including a Military Protective Order and an expedited transfer. With this option, DoD law enforcement triggers an investigation and the member's chain of command is notified.

The following members are eligible for both the unrestricted and restricted reporting option through the SAPR office:  Active duty members and their dependents 18 and older, Air Force Reserve members and Air National Guardsmen in Title 10 status who are sexually assaulted when performing active service and inactive duty training, and Air Force civilian employees, both appropriated and non-appropriated. The Family Advocacy Program will manage the case if a victim has been assaulted by their spouse, same sex domestic partner and/or unmarried intimate partner, or is 17 years of age and younger.

Those who have been sexually assaulted or think they have been should go to a safe location away from the attacker. Contact the local sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate or healthcare provider. Seek medical care as soon as possible, wven if there are no visible physical injuries, as there is a chance of becoming pregnant or acquiring a sexually transmitted disease.

Ask the healthcare provider to conduct a sexual assault forensic examination, and if there is suspicion of being drugged, request a urine sample be collected.

Those who has been sexually assaulted should preserve all evidence of the assault and should not bathe, wash their hands or brush their teeth. Survivor's should not clean or straighten up the crime scene. They are also advised to write down, tape or record all the details that can be recalled about the assault and assailant.

For more information or if you have been sexually assaulted, please call the Sexual Assault Response Hotline at 919-722-7272 or 919-920-7272.