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SHARP: Speaker focuses on victim’s view

Veraunda Jackson, attorney for the Department of Children and Families, conducts an exercise to help first responders better understand what victims experience after a sexual assault during a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program presentation at the post theater April 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Veraunda Jackson, attorney for the Department of Children and Families, conducts an exercise to help first responders better understand what victims experience after a sexual assault during a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program presentation at the post theater April 12. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: April 14, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 14, 2016) -- Sexual assault continues to be an ongoing issue throughout the armed forces and can have a lasting impact on victims, but Fort Rucker continues its fight to combat the issue by keeping victims at the forefront.

The Fort Rucker Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program held presentations April 11-12 in order to bring awareness not only to the issue of sexual assault, but to give perspective on what a sexual assault may have on the victim.

Veraunda Jackson, attorney for the Department of Children and Families, was invited to speak to Fort Rucker about prevention and education on sex crimes, and how they relate to victims.

“One out of three women has been sexually assaulted before they come into the military, and one out of six men has been sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18,” she said. “Whether you’ve been assaulted in the military or not, people are dealing with the impact of sexual violence in their life, and I think it’s very important to focus on that healing process.”

Jackson, who was the victim of a sexual assault at the age of 16, speaks from experience as she shared her story.

“I was raped by a stranger at 16 years old,” she said. “I didn’t tell my story for seven months and that was only because I had missed 54 days of school and they wanted to know why.”

Jackson said after the assault, she went through the gambit of emotions.

“I was angry – angry that this man stole my ability to walk alone and feel safe,” she said. “I was depressed. I would stay in my room, and I wouldn’t do anything or eat anything.”

Additionally, she said she was constantly gripped with anxiety and fear, not only from the assault itself, but from the fact that people now knew her story and what had happened.

For victims, the world becomes a different place, she said.

During one of the sessions for sexual assault first responders, Jackson conducted an exercise where they walked through the process of the response to a sexual assault.

Through the exercise, participants were able to see how the victim might feel in a situation when an assault is reported and why they might not want to report.

“When we ask a victim to tell, we’re asking them not just to tell me and you, we’re asking them basically to tell a community of people,” said Jackson. “Then they have no control over where it goes. I want you to imagine you having to tell 10, 15 or 20 people what you think happened, and when we ask them to tell, we’re asking them to relive and recount the experience over and over again.

“For many, there is a misconception that it’s ‘just sex, so it’s no big deal,’ especially when alcohol is involved or it’s someone who is familiar with that person,” she said. “That’s why it’s important for people to try to understand it from the victim’s perspective and the impact it has on them.”

Jackson said her hope is to help people understand the complexity of the crime and not to just minimize it and sweep it under the rug. Sexual assault is a very challenging and complex topic to talk about, and as a survivor, sharing her story is one way she feels she’s able to help.

W01 Braden Spencer, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, said that looking at it from a different point of view helped him get some perspective on what kind of an impact a sexual assault might have on a victim.

“You’re always told to look at something from another’s point of view, but with something like this, it’s kind of hard to imagine,” he said. “You always think about why people don’t just report an assault, but then you don’t even think about people not believing you or having to go through the ordeal over and over again in front of people you don’t even know – I can see how it can keep a person from wanting to go through that.

“I think that’s the perception we need to change, though, to make sure people know that there are people there for them when something like this happens,” he continued. “If we can all see it from the victim’s perspective, then it really opens our eyes to how much these issues really make an impact.”

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