A Chaplain's perspective on sexual assault
By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Brendon O'Dowd, 412th Test Wing chaplain
/ Published March 31, 2014
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Have you ever had your soul torn in two? In other words, have you ever been hurt at such a deep level that you don't think you will ever be healed again? That is what happens with a sexual assault. It cuts deep into a person so that their very being is damaged in ways we cannot see. The most intimate act a person can share with another is misused for self-gratification. Sexual assault redefines the word "love" from "sacrificial giving for another" to "violently taking from another." Anyone who has been traumatized by sexual assault can tell you of the fear, shame, and anger resulting from this selfish action from what was most likely a supposed friend.
The Air Force leadership knows this very painful trauma requires critical and specialized support - that is why they provide avenues for someone to seek help in a private manner. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator is one avenue, but another that you may not think of right away is a chaplain. Chaplains along with the SARC are the two base agencies that provide 100 percent confidentiality. That is right, 100 percent in this area. That means we can provide total protection of your deepest hurts and we do that so you will have room and time to begin the healing process. Chaplains can also work hand in hand with the SARC with a restricted report to provide you the greatest number of tools in moving through this difficult time without the worry of more people finding out.
What can you do to help a person you think has been sexually assaulted? You may suspect that this deep and dark secret may be lurking in the background of a friend and yet they are still afraid to bring it out in the open. Compassionately encourage them to go talk to a chaplain, a place where secrets have a chance to come out in the open without the fear of shame and embarrassment. The first step is the hardest, but you have a friend in the chaplain.