Increase in sexual assault reports means programs are working

Increase in sexual assault reports means programs are working

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hill Air Force Base officials say an increase in the number of sexual assaults being reported by Airmen is a sign that base prevention and response programs are working. Janaee Stone, Hill’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, says victims of sexual assault are reporting crimes about four times more than they were six years ago.

“When I started in 2009, we were averaging about 10 reports (of sexual assault) every year,” she said. “Now we’re consistently around 40 every year.”

At first glance, the rise in sexual assaults reported would seem to indicate a corresponding increase of sexual assaults on base, but that’s not exactly the case, says Stone and Hill’s 75th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate Col. Thomas Rogers.

Hill’s Sexual Assault and Response Program, which now includes Stone, five full-time staff members and 26 volunteer victim advocates, began 10 years ago. In that time, Rogers says, the program has grown and expanded and now reaches more airmen than ever — growth and visibility that he says explains the increase in sexual assault reports.

“The overwhelming majority of (reports) we’re getting are either ones that happened prior to service or involved a civilian offender, where the alleged rapist is someone we don’t have jurisdiction over,” Rogers said. “I think that’s a benefit of our (sexual assault) program.

“Initially when it started 10 years ago, it was new and maybe people weren’t familiar with it and maybe didn’t trust what the system was going to do,” he said. “We’ve now got it to where people are comfortable reporting and we’re seeing people come forward and take advantage of it.”

The most up-to-date information released by the Air Force, shows that there were three sexual assault convictions originating from incidents that occurred at Hill between 2010 and 2013. The information was released by the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s office, which compiled a report of hundreds of sexual assault cases taken to trial by court-martial in which an accused Airman was convicted of a sexual assault offense.

The Department of Defense defines sexual assault as “intentional sexual contact characterized by the use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent.”

The definition includes a broad range of sexual offenses, consisting of the specific “Uniform Code of Military Justice” offenses including rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, forcible sodomy and any attempts to commit those offenses.

As the base SARC, Stone serves as the single point of contact for those victims, integrating and coordinating sexual assault victim and survivor care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Her office assures services are provided to a sexual assault victim from the initial report through final disposition and includes coordination with the Air Force Medical system to provide medical care, mental health support and completion of sexual assault forensic examinations, at the victim’s request.

The base also has a Special Victim’s Counsel program that provides independent, attorney-client privileged representation throughout investigation and prosecution processes.

For Hill victims of sexual assault, Stone says, help is just a phone call away; the base provides a 24-hour sexual assault response line. Base victims of sexual assault should call 801-777-1985 or 801-777-1964.

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