A Wright State University training program that teaches Wright-Patterson Air Force Base sexual assault victim advocates how to deal with the trauma on a peer-to-peer level could potentially serve as a model between the military and universities nationwide, officials said Tuesday.
Wright State and Wright-Patterson officials met with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, to talk about the program in a press conference in the congressman’s downtown Dayton office.
Turner, co-chairman of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, has co-authored extensive legislation with U.S. Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., in recent years addressing sexual assault in the military.
Wright-Patterson has had a lawyer assigned since last fall to advise victims of sexual assault of their legal rights, said Col. Carolyn J. Patrick, Wright-Patterson installation vice commander.
The base had relied on a lawyer at another base to advise victims, Patrick said. The Air Force set up a special legal counsel for victims in 2013.
Wright State’s two-day advocate training course trained nearly 40 airmen at Wright-Patterson in August, officials said.
“The advocates are probably the first gateway of helping them speak about the trauma experience,” said Ron Wean, a Wright State adjunct professor who trained participants.
The training emphasized an informed approach with compassion and understanding toward victims, he said.
A December 2014 report to President Barack Obama on sexual assault in the U.S. military concluded the prevalence of assaults have decreased, but reports increased between 2012 to 2014, indicating victims may feel more confident in reporting the crime, Patrick said.
Sexual assault reports increased by 8 percent between 2013 and 2014 and one in four victims reported the crime last year compared to one in 10 two years prior, the study said.
“We knew it was always an under reported crime, but we’re starting to see those two numbers come closer together which is encouraging as people … establish trust in the system and they know they have the support of the community,” she said.
Wright-Patterson Judge Advocate Office reported 33 allegations of sexual assault involving adult victims between 2010 to 2014. The office reported seven occurred in base dormitories, six in military housing and the rest at off-base locations.
The sexual assault response coordinator at the base reported a total of 15 reported cases in 2012, 25 in 2013 and 14 in 2014, figures show. Some of the cases may not have occurred at Wright-Patterson, but involved personnel assigned to the base, officials have said.
“Sexual assault is something that is a crime within all of our communities, including campuses,” said Joseph E. Keferl, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the WSU College of Education and Human Services Administration. “Often times we think of Wright-Patterson as being a technology-based institution, but it’s about people.”
Turner said he began introducing legislation about the issue after the 2007 murder and sexual assault of Maria Lauterbach, a 20-year-old Marine from Vandalia. She was killed by a fellow Marine who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to prison for the crime.