Sexual assault is an unfortunate reality in all aspects of life. This crime is often underreported and it’s not uncommon for victims to feel alone, blame themselves for what happened, or feel that they will not be believed if they do report the crime. In addition, there are many myths that exist in society that create challenges for sexual assault survivors. Here are several typical myths along with the facts of the matter.
Myth: Most interactions that lead to sexual assault involve being alone with the perpetrator.
Fact: Actually, interactions between people that might eventually lead to a sexual assault most often begin in a social setting, such as a party, gathering, club, etc.
Myth: If a victim has been sexually assaulted, he or she should be able to recall the event in great detail.
Fact: Recent research shows that while victims can and do store details about sexual assault in their memories, trauma often interferes with the encoding and recall of those memories. As a result, victims’ recall about an incident may appear disorganized or incomplete, which is incorrectly interpreted as being deceitful. Use of alcohol at the time of the incident increases memory problems. Special interviewing techniques, currently being taught to military criminal investigators and attorneys, have been shown to help victims to improve their recall of traumatic events.
Myth: Commanders dismiss cases to protect individuals who may have personal relationships with or that are generally viewed as “good soldiers”.
Fact: According to the Response Systems Panel report, “Commanders rarely choose non-judicial punishment or other administrative adverse action to dispose of penetrative sexual assault offenses. The misperception that commanders use options other than courts-martial to dispose of theses offenses may be due to the wide breadth of conduct that is categorized as “sexual assault” under the UCMJ.”
Myth: Military victims must report all sexual assaults to their commander.
Fact: Victims have many options for reporting a sexual assault and are not required to report the matter to their commander. The DoD created SARCs and SAPR VAs in 2005 to provide victims with the specially-trained resources for reporting and care. A victim may make a Restricted (confidential) Report or Unrestricted Report to a SARC, a SAPR VA or a healthcare provider. Often, victims also seek assistance from legal assistance attorneys or chaplains. Unrestricted Reports are referred to the MCIOs for investigation.
Hagel, C. Department of Defense (2014). Report to the President of the United States on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Retrieved from http://sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY14_POTUS/FY14_DoD_Report_to_POTUS_SAPRO_Report.pdf