Sexual assault is a problem that doesn’t limit itself to college parties or rough neighborhoods. It knows no boundaries and can occur in any walk of life, even in the military – where people live and work in close quarters.
There are, however, things a person can do to make oneself less of a target. Avoid walking alone, especially at night. Travel in small groups and never leave homes or barracks rooms unsecured. Many sexual assault cases take place between 1 to 5 a.m. in barracks rooms. On average, 28 cases of confirmed sexual assault are reported in the KMC each year, said Lt. Col. Derrick Arincorayan, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center chief of Social Work Services.
The attack, or mere threat of attack, can rattle a victim to the core. The following comes from an anonymous 20-year-old female, currently stationed in Europe and serving in the Iowa Army National Guard. Her experience came while attending a stateside college.
“I was walking from the library kind of late at night when some guy grabbed me from behind,” said the specialist. “It really wasn’t that big of a deal because I kicked him and then ran away. I reported it, but it was tough because I didn’t get a good look at him.”
She was fortunate. Her situation, although mild in comparison to rape victims, still left her emotionally shaken.
“I guard myself more closely,” she said. “I don’t trust people as easily as I used to. I’m well adjusted now because I got away … luckily.”
People who are not fortunate enough to elude their would-be attackers should report the incident as quickly as possible to authorities and get to the emergency room for an examination, said the colonel.
Don’t wash either, as it may destroy evidence that could help link the assault to the guilty party.
“Even if the assault happened months ago, you should come in,” said Colonel Arincorayan. “There is the sexually transmitted disease issue as well as emotional and psychological trauma. When in doubt, come in.”
Chaplains and other trained counselors can help in combating the emotional and mental stresses that occur after sexual assaults.
“Victims need to have a place to speak about their ordeal with a trained counselor or clergyman,” said Chaplain (Col.) Eric Holmstrom, LRMC chief of Pastoral Services. “They must realize it was not their fault. They did nothing to bring on the assault. It is an act of violence. It is invasive and painful and something they will have to live with and process for a long time.”
Much like dealing with the loss of a loved one, victims will go through the gamut of emotions – shock, denial, anger, grief and acceptance.
“You don’t get over it so much as you learn to live with it,” said Chaplain Holmstrom. “A great wrong was done to you, but we are here to walk with you. You are not alone.
“The important thing is to report it,” he said. “You should never be afraid to report a sexual assault. If it is not reported, the problem cannot be resolved. If it should happen, take action.”