A sexual assault survivor’s view: time to take control

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Melissa Krambeck
  • 45th Space Wing director of wing inspections
Editor's note: This is part six of an eight-part series about sexual assault awareness.

After a sexual assault many years before, I had begun having frequent nightmares, which left me exhausted night after night. When the exhaustion made it difficult to deal with even the normal stresses of career and family, let alone the compounded stress of a child being hospitalized, I sought help from the Mental Health Clinic.

Therapy helped, but I reached a point where I needed to implement a new tactic to augment my mental health appointments. My therapist suggested filing a restricted sexual assault report. She felt telling somebody outside my immediate family would be therapeutic, but I wasn't so sure. I thought if I filed a restricted report, everyone on base would know. I didn't believe my info would remain confidential. Still, I needed to try something new.

I made an appointment with my mental health therapist and invited the sexual assault response coordinator to the appointment. The sexual assault response coordinator asked me a few simple questions and the report was filed. The only information included in the Operational Report sent forward to leadership was:

1. The date the assault was reported,
2. The general time frame when the assault occurred, e.g., while in service, within the last 30 days, etc.,
3. If the sexual assault occurred during the day or night,
4. Number of alleged assailants,
5. Number of alleged victims
6. Nature of the assault (rape, forcible sodomy, indecent assault, etc.). To my surprise, restricted reporting worked. After reporting the assault, my privacy remained intact and I gained access to additional services available to those who report a sexual assault.

However, I felt the sexual assault response coordinator could have handled receiving my report better. This bothered me, so I decided to find ways to provide feedback to the sexual assault response coordinator to help improve the Sexual Assault Response Program. It turned out there is no mechanism in place to give anonymous, constructive feedback on services received under a restricted report.

Currently the only option is to give the coordinator direct feedback, which I did, in the form of a Memorandum for Record, but I felt this would not necessarily ensure the process or services would improve. I wanted to ensure the program was improved; taking on this effort empowered me, and I began to recover.

What you can do:
1. If you've experienced a sexual assault, even though it was years ago and whether or not you were on active duty at the time, you can report that crime. You will be believed, you can maintain your privacy, and you will be offered a wide range of services to help you recover including a Victim Advocate and the services of an attorney called a Special Victim Counsel. If you make an unrestricted report, you can request an Expedited Transfer to another unit or base if needed.

2. If you see a process which is not working, submit suggestions for improvements or make improvements yourself. The power of suggestion can help any program improve and continue to improve. One person speaking up can make a difference. Taking the initiative to use the sexual assault response process and helping improve their resources for others helped me make substantial gains in my recovery.

About the Author: This is an event in my life I want to share with you so you can gain insight from my experience as part of the "Story Teller's Campaign." As part of the "Every Airman has a Story Campaign," I am a confident young lady -- I like to ensure I leave every program I touch better than I found it. I am and have been many things: a mother, sister, wife, daughter, snowboarder, adventure racer, motorcycle rider, leader, program manager, avionics technician, engineer, physicist, Air Liaison Officer, United Nations Military Observer and US delegate to NATO. My philosophy is "bloom where planted and never ignore something you can fix or influence fixing." I teach and empower my team members to be better than me. Finally, I can make a difference and so can you.