VAFB sexual assault victims are not alone

  • Published
  • By Maj Steve Dubriske
  • 71st Flying Training Wing
April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
The purpose of this designation is to educate the general population on the longstanding problem of sexual assault in the United States.
As members of the United States Air Force, this issue should hit close to home. One only needs to look at allegations arising from the Air Force Academy, Sheppard AFB and Southwest Asia to see that we all need to be cognizant of the issue of sexual assault.
The general statistics surrounding sexual assault in the United States are disturbing. For example, the National Crime Victimization Survey found that there were more than 247,000 victims of sexual assault in 2002. While women were the likely victims, men are not immune from this crime. However, only 60 percent of victims of sexual assaults on average report the crime to law enforcement officials. Because of this, many perpetrators are not held accountable for their crimes.
I know at this point in the article some skeptics may think the numbers reported by the media and advocacy groups are overinflated and take into account too many false allegations. Assuming this is true, I ask readers to throw out one-half of the allegations. There are still unbelievable numbers of sexual assaults: 123,500-plus in the United States each year, approximately 25 at the Air Force's premiere officer training school, and more than 50 in a combat zone. These numbers show the United States Air Force, much like college campuses and society at large, continues to have a problem that needs our collective attention.
Those who were not skeptical of the statistics are probably lulled into a false sense of security because we live in Enid, America. While Enid and Vance AFB are great places to live because of the lack of criminal activity, we are not immune from crime. In fact, FBI crime statistics show the rape rate per 100,000 persons in Oklahoma is greater than that found in California, New York, Illinois and Florida. Moreover, in any given year, Enid hospitals may perform 20 to 30 rape examinations on adult victims. These statistics show sexual assaults can occur anywhere, anytime.
The good news is that victims of these crimes do not have to face the aftermath of sexual assault alone. Vance AFB, like other Department of Defense installations, has a Victim-Witness Assistance Program, or VWAP. VWAP applies in all cases in which criminal conduct adversely affects victims or in which witnesses provide information regarding criminal activity if any portion of the investigation is conducted primarily by DoD agencies. The purposes of the VWAP are to mitigate the physical, psychological and financial hardships experienced by victims and witnesses of crimes, to foster cooperation between those touched by crime and the military justice system and to protect the rights of victims and witnesses.
VWAP is a coordinated effort among a number of Team Vance agencies that provide services to victims and witnesses of crime, including the chapel, security forces, Office of Special Investigations, legal, life skills, the clinic and family support. The efforts are coordinated to ensure the victim or witness receives the base services they need because of their particular case. These services can include medical care, counseling, protective measures and transitional compensation. The VWAP also ensures victims and witnesses are kept aware of the status of any disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator of the crime.
There is also bad news; that is, bad news for perpetrators of sexual assault. Those few persons who commit these offenses need to understand sexual assault is a criminal act that will not be tolerated by the leadership at Vance AFB. The word "no" from a victim really does mean "no." Let me also quickly dispel the myth the victim's severe intoxication is a defense to sexual assault offenses. On the contrary, an intoxicated victim under the law is presumed to be unable to consent to sexual activity. Thus, if you take advantage of someone because they are intoxicated, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the military justice system.
Victims of crime do not have to face the aftermath alone. The agencies responsible for VWAP, in addition to the chain of command, are tasked to provide the support and services needed to help people cope with the event. All it takes is a phone call to the legal office at 7404, or one of the other base agencies mentioned above. We are truly here to help.
Victims of crime, you do not have to face the aftermath alone. The agencies responsible for VWAP, in addition to your chain of command, are tasked to provide you with the support and services needed to help you cope with the event. All that it takes is a phone call to the Base Legal Office at 213-7404, or one of the other base agencies mentioned above. We are truly here to help.