Members of Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Unit Didn't Face Background Checks, Go through Training

By Michael Klazema on 6/3/2015

The Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program is designed to combat sexual assault in the United States military, and to work with victims of sexual assault crimes. According to an internal audit conducted in April 2014, though, many of the personnel appointed to work with the program never went through background checks or received training of any kind prior to taking up their new roles.

The good news is that the audit, which was conducted last year by the Air Force Audit Agency, inspired the military to start refining screening policies for Sexual Assault Prevention & Response personnel almost immediately. In fact, the head of training and development for the SAPR program told The News Tribune, the publication that obtained the audit documents and reported them to the public, that such oversights "cannot happen anymore." The Air Force has supposedly implemented background checks and training regimens for any airmen involved in the SAPR program, to prevent potential threats to sexual assault victims.

Still, the findings of the audit remain damning for the Air Force. Considering the sensitive nature of work that involves victims of sexual assault, it goes without saying that everyone involved in the SAPR program should have been screened for past sexual offenses themselves. However, according to the audit, 826 of the personnel members for the program did not receive background checks, checks that the Air Force is legally required to conduct. That's roughly a third of the 2,500-some individuals who were chosen to be a part of the program, either as "response coordinators" or as "victim advocates."

To make matters worse, 167 of the personnel chosen to work SAPR had not yet received security clearances from the United States Military; 117 members never received any kind of training on how to respond to reports of sexual assault or work with assault victims; and 852 individuals didn't participate in required "refresher training" prior to starting work with the new department. The final figure of 1,435 highlights the number of personnel who had something wrong with their records before joining SAPR, considerably more than half of all involved program personnel.

From the sounds of it, the oversights might just have been the result of the Air Force rushing to implement the new sexual assault program. Congress has been putting pressure on different branches of the United States Military as of late, with the goal of reducing the frequency of sexual assaults in the military. A 2012 Pentagon survey suggested that 26,000 sexual assault cases occurr in the military ranks annually. A recent study from the Rand Corporation estimates that the number was down closer to 20,000 for 2014. As you can see, the number is dropping, but there is still a long way to go. Hopefully, the new background check and training standards in place for the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program will help to reduce the case number even further.


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