SAPR: Know your part, do your part

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hannah Bean
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Sexual assault is typically a topic not easily discussed, yet is something that can detrimentally affect Airmen and their ability to accomplish the mission, but April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and is a time to openly discuss these issues.

The mission of the Columbus Air Force Base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office is to reinforce the Air Force's commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through a comprehensive policy that centers on awareness and prevention, training and education, victim advocacy, response, reporting, and accountability.

“We make sure that the population is educated on sexual assault and aware of the options and assistance available to them,” said Althenia Sims, Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator. “Any form of assault or harassment impacts the readiness of our Airmen. To ensure they’re ready to engage, we want to make sure that if something happens we can provide the care they need. We also want to educate them on prevention so they can carry on the mission with their minds clear.”

As the SARC, Sims helps execute the Air Force's SAPR program and is the primary point of contact for integrating and coordinating sexual assault victim care services for eligible recipients at Columbus AFB. She assists unit commanders as necessary to ensure victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care.

Though the SAPR office works every day to assist Airmen affected, April is a Sexual Assault Awareness Month, allowing it to be a primary time to help educate others and showcase the importance of what the SARC and victim advocates do.

A large and very important piece of the SAPR Program available to assault victims are the two reporting procedures that have important differences that can affect their rights.

Restricted reporting is a confidential report that does not trigger an investigation or command involvement and provides a victim with some supportive service options. Only a SARC, SAPR Victim’s Advocate, Health Care Provider or a Chaplain can provide a restricted report. Service options include access to counseling, medical care, and Special Victims Counseling.

Unrestricted reporting starts an official law enforcement investigation, enlists the support of the chain of command, and provides a victim with access to all supportive service options. The other services only available to unrestricted reporting include expedited transfer and Military Protective Order. With unrestricted reporting, knowledge of the sexual assault is limited to those with need-to-know.

When a victim of sexual assault decides to report, it's important to understand the options available. Knowing the difference between restricted and unrestricted reporting will help them avoid issues down the road. This is intended to empower them to seek relevant information and support to make more informed decisions about participating in the criminal investigation.

These options allow victims to make an informed decision on how they want to report their unique incident with all of the needed information to keep their rights as a victim intact.

A victim can choose to convert a Restricted Report to Unrestricted at any time. However, once an Unrestricted Report is made, the restricted option is no longer available.

No matter what, the SAPR Office is available to assist others with care and even can help with questions Airmen may have about SAPR or the different options and services available to them.

“You don’t have to be afraid to come talk to us,” Sims said. “I always say come to us first and come to us often to make sure you know your rights and options. We can provide information, advice and even be able to point them to other people they can talk to.”

People also have the option of calling the DoD Safe Helpline at any time by dialing 877-995-5247.