April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Col. Richard Murphy
  • 71st Flying Training Wing vice commander
April is nationally observed as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, the theme of the Department of Defense awareness campaign is "Our strength is for defending." This theme highlights the fact that our mission not only includes national defense, but also the defense and safety of fellow service members who voluntarily risk their lives in battle every day.

Airmen, beginning with commanders and senior leadership, must understand their duties to safely intervene and prevent sexual assault. This crime impairs mission readiness and is fundamentally at odds with the responsibility of the men and women in uniform to treat all people with dignity and respect. "Active bystander intervention" is the core process by which Airmen can employ their strength.

Active bystander intervention occurs when an Airman takes the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for a sexual assault. Active bystanders also take the initiative to help fellow service members who are not thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of this crime. Airmen have a duty to watch for situations that could lead to a sexual assault and safely intervene whenever possible. Active bystander intervention takes place early -- before the crime occurs -- and involves steps such as:

- Getting a friend out of a potentially dangerous situation
- Letting a friend know that his or her actions may lead to serious consequences
- Using a group of friends to remind someone that his or her behavior is inappropriate
- Taking steps to curb someone's use of alcohol before problems occur
- Calling the authorities when the situation warrants

To boost our awareness, a traveling theater group, 'Sex Signals', is scheduled May 20 and 21 to be at Vance. The group's interactive training program explores how social pressures and gender role stereotypes contribute to sexual assault.

I had the opportunity to see this training at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Leader Summit held Nov. 17 and 18 in Alexandria, Va., and believe all Team Vance members will benefit from the experience. We will also be targeting the correlation between excessive alcohol use and high-risk behaviors with another dynamic training opportunity this fall.

I encourage each of you to be a good wingman and foster a climate of respect. For more information on preventing sexual assault or for someone to talk with, call Sheryl McMullen, 213-5598 or drop by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office in Bldg. 312.