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DoD Office Assists Military Sexual Assault Victims

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2005 – A new Defense Department organization is dedicated to address the needs of servicemembers who have been sexually assaulted, a senior official said here Dec. 22.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office is DoD's central point of accountability for sexual assault incidents, the office's deputy director, Dr. Kaye Whitley, said. The office began operations Oct. 1.

"We focus only on (sexual) assault, not harassment, in the military," Whitley said.

The SAPR office's mission, Whitley said, is threefold:

  • To reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military, including the service academies;
  • To assist sexual assault victims in obtaining care, and;
  • Offender accountability.
The SAPR office was created as a result of the Joint Task Force for Sexual Prevention and Response that was established in October 2004 and headed by Air Force Brig. Gen. K.C. McClain, Whitley said.

The task force's recommendations prompted DoD to establish a new sexual assault policy and an office to oversee it, Whitley said. The policy employs a standardized system that all servicemembers can use to report sexual assaults and to obtain the care they need.

"We are now transitioning to a permanent office, based on the findings from the task force," Whitley said.

Trained sexual assault response coordinators assigned at military installations worldwide are available to assist victims to obtain medical care, counseling and access to other support resources, Whitley said.

"There's a whole system in place for victim care," she said.

The chain of command is kept in the loop, since the sexual assault response coordinators have direct access to senior installation commanders, Roger Kaplan, the SAPR office's director of communications, said.

"The key here is that the commander is responsible for the training (of the coordinators)," Kaplan said, noting his office stands ready to help. SARC personnel, he said, also coordinate monthly case management meetings involving base chaplains, health care providers and law enforcement and legal representatives.

"This is a military readiness issue as much as it is an issue of human dignity," Kaplan said.

Military sexual assault victims can opt to file a confidential, restricted report, Kaplan said.

"Health care will notify the SARC ... but the command isn't going to be told that 'Sally Jones' or 'Bob Richards' was (sexually) assaulted," Kaplan said.

"They will learn that an assault took place," he said, "and they'll get certain information that'll allow them to take, hopefully, preventive action for the future."

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DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office

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