Sexual assault victims have varied options to make restricted reports

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashley J. Woolridge
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Many Airmen who have been sexually assaulted wish to keep their experience as private as possible, but may not know where to turn for a discreet confidante.

Fortunately, Ellsworth's sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocates and healthcare workers can all receive a report of a sexual assault and assist Airmen in obtaining medical, spiritual and other assistance without being obligated to notify law enforcement.

Kelly Dominguez, 28th Bomb Wing SARC, said chaplains are also a valuable resource for victims, but reports must be vetted through the SARC before an official restricted report can be made.

"Once a restricted report is received, the victim is eligible for healthcare, mental healthcare and the assistance of a victim advocate," Dominguez added.

Dominguez explained a restricted report enables military members and family members who are 18 years or older to report allegations of sexual assault without triggering an investigation.

"The restricted reporting option gives a victim a sense of time and control over their situation," Dominguez said. "Imagine having to discuss with a complete stranger very intimate details of an experience in which you did not give consent. Once an investigation is initiated, a victim is asked to talk about this experience several times."

Maj. Charles Knauer, 28th BW chaplain, said chaplains are in a unique position when it comes to talking to Airmen about their problems.

"We have complete confidentiality," Knauer explained. "I would view it, first of all, as a confidential counseling case. What is said from there determines what will happen. At some point I may advise the person about what their options are - some being to file a restricted report or to get checked out at the clinic."

Staff Sgt. Erika Bartlett, 28th Medical Operations Squadron Women's Health Clinic team lead, said although she has never dealt with a sexual assault victim in her career, she is well aware of the proper procedure.

"As a technician, I'd pass on any and all information to the (healthcare) provider and we would contact a SARC to assist the patient and in the process," Bartlett said. "The patient would then be treated for any emergent issues while the SARC is being notified, and after that a SARC-certified provider would then do the physical as this is required to preserve any evidence."

Victims of sexual assault are seen by a certified sexual assault nurse examiner who performs a pelvic exam, as well as a computed axial tomography scan or X-rays, if needed.

Aside from physical and spiritual help, Airmen may also need a shoulder to lean on during their recovery process.

"Victim advocates are there for the victim 24/7," said Tech. Sgt. Naomi Palmer, 28th Operations Group training manager and victim advocate. "We can go to appointments and counseling sessions with them, be there to listen to them, take them out to clear up their mind, and be that support system they need, especially if they do not have family up here."

Restricted reports are a welcome option for Airmen who need someone to talk to or who need medical care, but in the event they wish to go one step further, they can change their report to unrestricted status by notifying the SARC.

"There will be some new paperwork, but it is relatively simple to make a report unrestricted," Dominguez explained. "Once a report is changed to unrestricted, however, it cannot be changed back to restricted. Once an investigation is initiated, it cannot be stopped."

Although Airmen may be hesitant to come forward, they are encouraged to seek the help they need without fear of reprisal or judgment.

"My first priority is to take care of that person emotionally and spiritually," Knauer said.

"Personally, I have a passion to help people as well as a responsibility as a medic," Bartlett said. "I'd never want someone to place blame on themselves or feel ashamed or fearful to come to us. This would be a terrible situation for the patient and I'd just show professionalism, integrity and compassion with them."

Dominguez added her position as the SARC allows her to see victims overcome their circumstances.

"Every day in my job as the SARC is very different," Dominguez said. "While I do help those who have been through very traumatic experiences, I am also a witness to the resiliency of those very same people. Yes, there may be days of frustration or sadness, but there are also days of joy and that's what keeps me going."

For more information on restricted reports, call the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at (605) 385-5233 or the 24/7 reporting line at (605) 385-SARC (7272).