A sexual assault survivor’s view: Don’t let fear stand in the way

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Melissa Krambeck
  • Director of Wing Inspections
Editor's note: This is part five of an eight-part series about sexual assault awareness.

In the past when I went to mental health, I was looking for a quick fix so I could sleep better, having lived for years with recurring nightmares brought on by a previous sexual assault.

After self-reflection, I realized my real goal was to control my emotions. Because of the sexual assault years before, I personally feared helplessness and loss of control.

My therapist helped me work through my fears, and offered me the opportunity to file a report through the Sexual Assault Response Program, SAPR, so I could use the resources that program provided.
Reporting scared me. I felt if I reported the assault, everyone would know I was assaulted and was not able to recover--in other words, I was weak and helpless [not true].

Like many sexual assault survivors, I felt the assault was somehow my fault and, therefore, I didn't deserve help [neither of those were true]. Additionally, I felt my reporting the assault would negatively affect the AF [not true]. The Air Force stance on sexual assault is zero tolerance, which I interpreted as the need to keep the number of reported assaults low. Therefore, I thought, I should keep my secret, suck it up and just get over my nightmares.

However, my nightmares were getting worse.

I called the local staff judge advocate, as a mentor and legal expert, and asked her why the Air Force wasn't sending strategic messages to past sexual assault survivors. The message is zero tolerance and to me, this set a clear message of zero tolerance for future sexual assaults but not past ones.

The staff judge advocate disagreed with me and pointed out that almost all of the Air Force messaging and programs were for past sexual assault survivors. She gave me a few examples of resources and messaging specifically for sexual assault survivors, all survivors: 1) the two different reporting methods available to sexual assault survivors are restricted and unrestricted, 2) the SAPR victim advocate program, and 3) the judge advocate's new special victims' council, which were all designed to help and support survivors of past assaults.

During my recovery, I used both reporting methods available to sexual assault survivors. I first filed a restricted report but converted it to unrestricted in order to provide suggestions to improve the Sexual Assault Response Program. Additionally, I am still using the SAPR victim advocate program and the Special Victims' Council.

What you can do: 1) Know that the Air Force Zero Tolerance stance on sexual assaults does not preclude reporting a past assault. It means the Air Force's goal is no future sexual assaults, 2) Be aware that sexual assault survivors may be fearful of losing control over themselves and perceptions of themselves, 3) Know there are resources available specifically for sexual assault survivors, and 4) If you are a survivor, don't let fear stand in your way of receiving the help and resources you need.

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 U.S. 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.