The crime of sexual assault is one of the most under-reported offenses in our society. That is reflected within the microcosm of the Air Force.
There are many reasons why an individual would chose not to report that they have suffered a traumatic sexual event.
The most common include concerns that he or she could be revictimized, that a spouse or partner will find out, that other misconduct, like underage drinking, will result in disciplinary action or diminish credibility, or that the report will not lead to a change in the culture that allowed the crime to occur.
As a law enforcement agency, following the receipt of an allegation of sexual assault of Air Force interest, members of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations go to great lengths to treat persons involved with respect while working closely with the sexual assualt response coordinator, victim advocates, chaplain, affected commanders and legal representatives.
There are understandable concerns associated with reporting a crime; however, consider that the process of investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults has dramatically changed during the past year, allowing individuals that suffered an apparent sexual assault to have a greater ability to be involved in the process and therefore a greater understanding of the outcome.
It is thought that this involvement opens a path to recovery by ensuring that an offender is no longer able to inflict pain upon others. In this, there are instances when AFOSI determines through an investigation that an offender has committed similar crimes in the past but those victims chose not to report the crime.
Understanding the difficulty associated with making an unrestricted report, AFOSI has developed a means to make an anonymous report through the AFOSI tip line, hyperlinked on the 62nd Airlift Wing homepage or (https://www.tipsubmit.com/WebTips.aspx?AgencyID= 1111). Using this, an allegation is submitted in an anonymous manner to HQ AFOSI, which forwards the information to the responsible AFOSI detachment.
The most important part of this process is reporting the crime, either in a restricted (not investigated) or unrestricted (investigated by law enforcement) format. A close second is the collection of forensic evidence that can be the single most important aspect to document, investigate, and prosecute this crime.
As applies to sexual assaults, if you suspect that you have been victimized, please do not wash or dispose of any of the items that you have worn or alter the area in which the assault occurred.
As such, as soon as practical after ensuring your safety, it is critical to work with AFOSI to initiate an unrestricted report to allow an investigation to take place, or with the SARC to obtain services and make a restricted report.
For any questions about AFOSIs mission, stop by AFOSI Det. 305 in Building 160 on McChord Field or call 253-982-2567.