Sexual Assault Awareness Month isn’t just for service personnel. It’s for all of us, including military spouses. Life isn’t always happy, and just like there is support for families with a deployed member, there is help for military spouses who are going through the process of healing from sexual assault. In fact, military spouses and dependents over 18-years-old have just as many resources as military personnel, plus a few more.
Just like Active Duty Personnel along with National Guard and Reserve components performing active service, we spouses have access to everything provided by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program headed by a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) at each installation. This program helps survivors of sexual assault through a support network of victim advocates, health professionals, law enforcement, legal, and community partners. There is access to medical and mental health care. Basically, it means that whatever happens, you don’t have to go through it alone.
You can find the 24-7 SARC Helpline for each installation either at the installation’s web page, or by contacting Military OneSource at militaryonesource.mil or calling 1-800-342-9647. You can also contact the base Airman Family Readiness Group (AFRG) or the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program.
In order to get these services, you can choose between two paths. Restricted reporting lets you get services without anyone else knowing or starting a criminal case. Unrestricted reporting still gets you services while alerting the commander and starting an investigation.
You can always choose to start a restricted report and then go on to file an unrestricted report in order to start an investigation. But the public nature of an unrestricted report means that you can’t go back to restricted. This also means that if a mandated reporter finds out about the assault, the report is automatically unrestricted.
So it’s important to know that SARCs and base victim advocates have confidentiality. This means that you can always call the SAPR office with questions, concerns, or confessions about surviving sexual assault. No one else will find out.
The sexual assault doesn’t even have to be recent. Even if you are processing childhood abuse from decades ago, you can still go see the SARC and get the services you need to heal.
Another resource set up by the Defense Department's SAPR program is through a partnership with the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). They have set up an anonymous Safe Helpline that is available to all military personnel and dependents like us to speak with trained professionals familiar with military culture. The RAINN staff members are also especially trained to help LGBT military members and their families. You can get help 24/7 by calling 1877-995-5247.
There are also extra resources for military spouses. If the sexual assault was from a spouse or intimate partner, the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) takes over. This provides even more resources to military spouses than the SAPR program alone. The FAP is also the helping agency that steps in when there is child sexual abuse. The Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) is available to help with short-term problems. The AFRG and MWR programs are also great clearinghouses for information and help.
Reporting sexual assault can seem intimidating and scary. But the tools given to us by the military make it easy and, more importantly, secure. If you or someone you know has been impacted by an assault look into them today.
Elise Thomasson is an Air Force spouse of four years. She has worked in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at Kirtland Air Force Base. She is active in other military helping organizations such as Key Spouses, Kirtland Spouses' Club, and the Gay-Straight Alliance of Military at Kirtland/Albuquerque. She and her husband are parents to a delightful dog-child and are expecting their first human-child any day.