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Sexual Assault in the Foreign Service — What To Do?

Posted: 1:24 am ET
Updated: 9:25 am PT to clarify that we requested to connect with top @StateDept officials via Twitter and have not heard back.

We’ve previously blogged that there is no official guidance in the FAM on reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service (see The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief). There were cables released by Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations in 2015 and 2016, but so far, we have been unable to retrieve copies of those unclassified cables.

We recently received a Burn Bag from an FSO who wrote – “Sexual Assault in the FS – What to do?” The FSO said she/he was raped by somebody who is also in the Service.

We will have a follow-up post on sexual assault in the Foreign Service and will attempt as best we can to address additional issues. We hope that this FSO would consider reporting this crime. Previous to this Burn Bag, we’ve received a separate sexual assault report from another anonymous FSO. That victim told us that this nightmare will not go away, and the sooner it is reported, the better.

We are concerned about the FSO’s safety and possible retaliation by the offender. With some help from an FS assault victim, we put together some suggestions/resources to consider. We hope assault victims/assault survivors would feel free to consider or ignore the following based on their personal circumstances.

Safety First

Put your safety first. This may mean choosing delayed reporting after you are in a safe place. Some questions to consider in planning ahead: Does your living arrangement expose you to threat of continued violence? Do you need to go on an emergency shelter or request an alternative housing option? If you share the same post, office, bureau, or training location and you feel unsafe, what can you do to get help? Where can you go? Who can you call?

Call 911 

Or since the assault occurred in a domestic location, go to the Arlington Country Police/DC Police or the nearest police station where the crime occurred as soon as possible and file a report

Go to any medical facility if possible to preserve physical evidence

Rape is a crime; it is not an HR issue.

Tell someone, if you can get over the shock

Call the Hotline

Call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 1-800-656-HOPE, to be routed to a rape crisis center near you. RAINN also offers a live chat at: https://hotline.rainn.org/online/terms-of-service.jsp

Call the National Center for Victims of Crime Victim Service Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL or 1-800-211-7996 (TTY/TDD). The National Center for Victims of Crime has a number of resources available to assist victims of crime. The National Help Line, VictimConnect, provides help for victims of any crime nationwide, and can be reached by phone at 1–855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) or by online chat.

Write It Down

The Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI), a best practice in law enforcement interviews with survivors. “Write it Down” prompts survivors to recall sensory details about When, Where, What and Who, as opposed to asking chronological questions, since after a trauma, memories may be disordered, fragmented or out of sequence.

Congressional Help

California Representative Jackie Spieir has a hotline and has worked on military rape and sexual assault. Her office can be reached at 202-225-3531 or through https://speier.house.gov/contact/website-problem. If you call, ask to speak with the   legislative director regarding a sexual assault issue in the federal government. Alternatively, you may call and ask for the email address of the legislative director, and the people answering the phone will provide the email address (office’s standard policy). Jackie’s office said that they will keep your identity anonymous unless you explicitly give the congressional office permission to make inquiries on your behalf.

Related items via RAINN:

We do not want to make this harder than it already is, but we hope that the FSO who sent us the Burn Bag will report the crime and identify the perpetrator so he can be brought to justice and kept from harming others.  We also hope that the FSO emails us back, we do not want her to feel alone.

For the record, we’ve reached out to three senior State Department officials via Twitter to connect with us. We wanted to clarify the murky reporting process and concerns over confidentiality. We have received no response as of this writing. State and DS are aware that we have been looking for the DS/OSI cables that reportedly provides guidance for sexual assaults.

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Related post:

Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?

 

 

Disclaimer:

Please know that the above information is provided as general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. For instance, the hotlines are taken from an online search, we have not used them nor can we verify their effectiveness. The information is also not presented as a source of legal advice. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, please  consult a competent, independent attorney. This blog does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed here. Thanks.

 

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