April Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Illinois National Guard Program Teaches Prevention While Teaching Response Techniques
SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/03/2012)(readMedia)-- In a recent episode of ABC's Private Practice, a Soldier returning from Afghanistan was forced to deal with events that occurred while he was deployed overseas. After the fictional character attempted suicide, it is evident more aggressive methods of treatment are needed to help the Soldier who is trying to cope with returning to civilian life, as well as a sexual assault that occurred overseas.
In real life, sexual assault within the ranks of the military is not a new problem. It is, however, a problem that has made it necessary for the military to conduct its own annual reporting on the crisis.
"Illinois was one of the first states to take the situation seriously and hire a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) full-time to address and implement the state's program," said Master Sgt. Christy Sipes of Rushville, who was the first SARC the Illinois National Guard hired full-time to manage the program. "It has evolved rapidly over the past five years, but the message remains that sexual assault is an important topic that commanders must address."
In 2011, there were 160 reports of sexual assault in the National Guard. In Illinois there were eight sexual assaults and two sexual harassment cases reported. Although assaults mostly occur while Soldiers are in non-duty status, victims assaulted during deployments often report the incident upon returning to their home state.
Since the inception of the sexual assault programs in 2005, the Illinois National Guard responded to 29 reported incidents of sexual assaults. Some of the incidents occurred prior to the Soldier joining or transferring in the Illinois National Guard.
"People are coming forward knowing their chain of command will have their backs," said Kim Schaefle of Warrenville, the assistant sexual assault response coordinator with the Illinois National Guard. "Sexual assault prevention has become a major priority for the Illinois National Guard."
While there are no easy ways to deal with the trauma of sexual assault, there are many resources available throughout the military, and more are being developed to insure the victim is protected and assisted in recovery.
The National Guard is in a unique position because most of the reported assaults did not take place during duty hours, therefore not providing the program any latitude for proper reporting, said Sipes. Illinois is a victim supportive state with many programs available to victims of violent crime, which is a tool that is frequently used. Illinois is fortunate to have these programs to help offset the cost of lost wages and clothing during an assault. The clothes and items become evidence and therefore the person loses them, Sipes added.
All Soldiers have to complete Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training annually. The Illinois Army National Guard is leading the nation in training compliance.
"Our main goal in this annual class is to let the Soldiers know about the reporting options that are available to them if they are a victim of sexual assault," said Sgt Maj. Diane S. Rogers of Girard, Illinois Army National Guard's SARC. "The two options are restricted and unrestricted reporting. Most do not know that they have an option."
The Illinois National Guard is a microcosm of society. Although the military is typically held to a higher standard, assaults occur in the military ranks just like they do in the civilian sector. The Illinois National Guard has made it a priority to make sure assistance is available for victims.
"We also want the Soldier to know that there is help for them if they are a victim of sexual assault," Rogers said. "The SARCs and Unit Victim Advocates and Chaplains are here for them."
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and commits to raising awareness and promoting the prevention of sexual violence through use of special events and public education.
"This is an issue that must not be limited to one month a year," Rogers said. "It is an ongoing problem that must get better and it is up to everyone in the military to make sure they are doing their part to prevent, report and support."
Photo: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Theresa Duncan a trauma nurse specialist, sexual assault nurse examiner with St. Johns Hospital in Springfield speaks to nearly 70 Soldiers with the Illinois National Guard attending the two week Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention training Feb. 23 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. The Soldiers met with a panel of sexual assault response experts from the Springfield area.
For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at email@example.com
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