Understanding support, services vital for sexual assault victims

  • Published
  • By Rebecca R. Imwalle
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Many Airmen who have been sexually assaulted choose to keep their experience private, not knowing who to turn to if they want discreet help or support.

Fortunately, Ellsworth's sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocates and healthcare workers can receive a restricted report of a sexual assault and assist Airmen in obtaining medical, spiritual and other assistance.

"To get the help they need, Airmen can either file a restricted or unrestricted report," said Kelly Dominguez, 28th Bomb Wing SARC. "With restricted reporting, only people with a need to know will be involved, while unrestricted reporting triggers an investigation."

Dominguez explained that with a restricted report, Airmen and family members who are 18 years or older can report a sexual assault without initiating an investigation. In addition, she said that while a restricted report can be changed to unrestricted, the same can't be said about the other.

"Airmen who choose the restricted reporting option, do so because it gives them a sense of control over their situation," Dominguez said. "Once an investigation begins with an unrestricted report, a victim may have to share details about their experience with other agencies - sometimes on several different occasions."

Ellsworth is currently home to more than 50 victim advocates. Among the bases' victim advocates is Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Borries, 28th Bomb Wing Command Post NCO in charge of training.

Borries said that victim advocates stand at the ready to provide support for victims and make certain no sexual assault victim has to endure the recovery process alone.

"I have worked with one victim so far," Borries said. "We met off base with the SARC to talk about the situation to see what resources we could provide. Following the initial meeting, I took her to mental health and sat with her through her appointments to make sure she was taken care of."

Borries said the vital part of being a victim advocate is being genuine and available for those who have endured a sexual assault.

Dominguez said that chaplains are another valuable resource for victims, but reports must be sent through the SARC before an official restricted report can be made.

"Chaplains have 100 percent confidentiality," Dominguez emphasized. "Airmen can go speak to them privately about their experience and no one else will know. Then, if they decide they want to file a report, they can still do so."

Dominguez added that the most important thing is for victims to understand that they have options.

"We are all here to make sure Airmen receive the help they need," Dominguez said. "No one has to deal with a traumatic experience alone."

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).