What you should know about sexual assault

4/8/2009 By Pfc Damien Gutierrez , Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The Camp Pendleton community is showing support by informing Marines, sailors and their families about the importance of reporting and preventing incidents of sexual assault in their lives. April is Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month.

It is important for the Pendleton community to know what sexual assault is and how to report it, said Heather Guerrero, victim advocate coordinator, counseling services, Camp Pendleton.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a crime defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by the use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, non-consensual sodomy, indecent assault (unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling), or attempts to commit these acts. Sexual assault can occur without regard to gender, spousal relationship, or age of the victim.

If you have been sexually assaulted, what do you do?

A victim advocate can explain the sexual-assault policy and the different reporting options. Active-duty victims have two reporting options; restricted and unrestricted reporting. Under restricted reporting, you can make a report confidentially to a sexual assault response coordinator or chaplain. Restricted reporting allows a victim to obtain counseling and mentalhealth services without notifying law enforcement. In unrestricted reporting, you may report to any command personnel, provost marshal, Naval Criminal Investigative Service employee, uniformed victim advocate, Sexual Assault Response Center, chaplain or a healthcare provide, and then law enforcement will be notified. You can reach a victim advocate 24 hours a day on Camp Pendleton by calling (760) 763-2075 and asking to speak with a victim advocate.

How can someone protect themselves from sexual assault?

The following are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk of being assaulted. Trust your instincts, don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. Avoid being alone with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know, use the buddy system. In a social situation, practice safe drinking and be aware of your surroundings. If you arrive with a group of friends, check in with each other and leave together. As with any violent crime, there is nothing you can do to guarantee you will not be a victim of sexual violence.

How can you help someone who has been sexually assaulted?

There are many ways that you can help a friend or family member who has been raped or sexually assaulted (listen to them, be there and don’t be judgmental). Being patient is very important in this situation. Remember, it will take your loved one some time to deal with the crime.

Help to empower your loved one. Rape and sexual assault are crimes that take away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on your loved one to do things that he or she is not ready to do. Encourage him or her to contact one of the hotlines, but realize that only your loved one can make the decision to get help.

How does Camp Pendleton educate its community about sexual assault?

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Pendleton’s counseling services have a variety of activities planned. The Shoe Project is scheduled to be at several locations around the base this month. The Shoe Project is an interactive empathy-building presentation based on the experiences of sexual-assault survivors. The Shoe Project embodies the people and intends to bring to life the crime of sexual assault and its affect. Counseling Services Prevention & Education Specialists will continue to provide sexual-assault prevention briefs to commands.

Who can someone can call if they have been sexually assaulted or have encountered someone who has?

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are many options to seek for help. Counseling services are available in Bldg. 1122 (760) 725-9051 or Bldg. 520512 (760) 763-6940. There is also help online at Military One Source at www.militaryonesource.com or call 800-342-9647, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at www.usmc-mccs.org/sapro, National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE or call 911.