Through My Eyes: Surviving Sexual Assault
by Airman Daniel B. Blackwell
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/19/2012 – SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) — “That night, my whole world turned upside down,” said Airman Samantha Smith, a sexual assault survivor in the Air Force.
On the night Smith was recalling, she became a victim of sexual assault and took her first of many steps down the road of recovery.
That night, Smith attended a party with people whom she believed to be her close, trusted friends. Her attacker knew her boyfriend and accompanied her to the party. Smith dismissed warnings from other close friends about her would-be attacker and his motives for spending time with her.
“I should have noticed the signs, but I was naïve,” Smith said.
At the party, Smith drank alcohol despite the fact she was underage. She became drunk and chose to leave with the male “friend” whom she assumed she could trust. After the party, he drove her back to his apartment where she spent the night.
“When I awoke, he was having intercourse with me,” she explained. “I knew what was happening, but I was trapped in my own body, paralyzed by fear. No one can understand that feeling unless they’ve been there. I couldn’t fight back, I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move. Soon after, I blacked out.”
Smith woke up the next morning at 9 a.m., and the man had already left.
“I wish I could forget, but I can’t,” Smith said.
She first confided in her mother, then in her close friend as she felt those were the only two she could trust.
“My friend made me call the sexual assault response coordinator line,” she said. “I was so afraid I would get in trouble for underage drinking. I used to think the SARC would record what you say and tell your commander, first sergeant and supervisors. I was wrong.
“They explained to me the difference between restricted and unrestricted reports,” Smith said. “I ended up doing a restricted report at first but later decided to do an unrestricted report.”
A restricted report must be kept confidential and cannot be investigated or prosecuted. An unrestricted report allows command notification and engagement as well as the option of investigation.
“After this, I signed a paper and went to Columbia, (S.C., for) a sexual assault nurse examiner’s (investigation),” Smith explained.
This type of forensic medical exam may be performed at hospitals and certain healthcare facilities by a sexual assault nurse examiner, sexual assault forensic examiner or another medical professional. The investigation is complex and takes three to four hours on average. These medical and forensic exams are comprehensive and attend to the victim’s medical needs and any other special attention the victim may require.
“I went to work without telling anyone what happened. I was watching my back and not talking to anyone,” she said. “If I did talk, I would sound irate or cry for no reason. I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself, because I was scared. Everything was triggering my fear and anger.
“I kept blaming myself for what happened,” Smith said. “It’s my fault: my clothes were too skimpy; I drank too much; why couldn’t I fight back?”
“That same week I started counseling off base. I always thought counseling was for crazy people. I thought I could suck it up and handle it on my own; I was wrong, but my counselor really helped get me through.”
Because Smith filed an unrestricted report…
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