Intervening, acting can help prevent sexual assaults

  • Published
  • By Holly Birchfield
  • 78th ABW/PA
People can do more to prevent sexual assault than they may think.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme is "Prevent Sexual Assault: Ask, Act, and Intervene."

Cindy Graver, sexual assault response coordinator at Robins, said she hopes this year's campaign raises awareness, because sexual assualt is a crime that can be prevented through others willingness to get involved.

"Sexual assault can be prevented by individuals, male and female, who stay aware of potentially dangerous situations and elect to intervene before a sexual assault takes place," Ms. Graver said.

She said if more people act, then fewer assaults will occur.

"A bystander is someone in a crowd who sees a potentially dangerous situation and either acts or doesn't act," she said. "If that person chooses to act or not to act, it could have long-term consequences, not only for the victim, but for the unit, family members, friends, and a lot of other people."

The Air Force and Department of Defense's training definition of sexual assault is 'intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim doesn't or can't consent. Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion, or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, or unconscious.

Mrs. Graver said a sexual assault can leave physical, mental, emotional, and psychological scars.

Preventing sexual assault is simple, Mrs. Graver said.

Mrs. Graver said inappropriate touching or disregard for boundaries, suggestive remarks, inappropriate intimacy, violent behaviors, and other such actions can cue others to step in.

"When you fail to act, you're condoning the other person's bad behavior," she said. "A lot of times, we may think, 'well, no one else is helping so it must not be a problem' It's all Airmen's responsibility to take care of each other. As a bystander, when somebody's in trouble, ask if he or she needs help. If he or she needs help, intervene."

Airman 1st Class Shelle Butler, an advocate for sexual assault victims at Robins since October 2007, provides non-clinical support to victims and helps them transition to being a survivor. She said people can stop the crime.

"As a bystander, you really should step up," she said. "Whenever you see something suspicious going on, (don't) be that wallflower."

Airman Butler said sexual assault impacts everyone.

"Anybody can be a victim," she said. "Always be aware of your surroundings. Don't become incapacitated with alcohol. Always have a plan. Always go somewhere with your wingman and make sure that person can be trusted."

Master Sgt. Gwendolyn Hinson, a victim's advocate at Robins since August of 2007, said people should look out for others as they would for themselves.

"You should practice personal operations security," she said. "Just as operations security is important to your mission, it's also important to look out for your fellow Airmen."