Military News

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

PACAF SAPR training focuses on victim response, changing culture

by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Headquarters Pacific Air Forces

5/5/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Headquarters Pacific Air Forces members participated in sexual assault and prevention response training April 28 here as part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in April.

The training focused on proper victim response and changing the Air Force climate toward sexual violence.

"The theme of this month is 'Eliminate Sexual Assault. Know your part. Do your part,'" said Gen. Lori J. Robinson, PACAF commander. "That second part is huge and important to internalize -- do your part. We should all create a climate of dignity and respect. We have made huge strides, but we still have a way to go to continue communication."

After the general presented opening remarks, Machelle Terrell, 15th Wing installation sexual assault response coordinator, led PACAF in interactive training that included scenarios designed to showcase how members should respond to someone who is a victim of sexual assault or rape.

"How you respond makes a difference," she said.

Ways to positively respond include being willing to go with them to get help, being non-judgmental, providing helpful tools and resources, not asking a lot of questions and using encouraging words.

To drive home a vital point, Terrell asked audience members to turn to the person next to them and share their best sexual experience, stopping them before actually sharing the experience.

"How difficult was it to tell someone your best experience? Now, think about how difficult it would be for a victim to tell their worst sexual experience," Terrell explained.

As part of sexual assault prevention, both Robinson and Terrell highlighted the importance of changing the Air Force climate and culture.

"We need a climate that addresses the different attitudes, beliefs and interactions of Airmen," Terrell said. "We need to operate outside the continuum of harm and create healthy environments that are conducive with respect and dignity. Ending sexual violence means going to the source and stopping it before it begins."

Providing an example to help Airmen envision the proper climate, Terrell asked members to imagine a bridge representing Air Force culture and climate. If the bridge is deteriorating, it means the climate is not a safe environment.

To help determine if the bridge is safe, Airmen need to gauge the climate and know whether they are operating in the "danger zone" or not. To keep the bridge intact, Airmen need to make the culture and climate safe for victims and one in which perpetrators can't easily operate in.

According to the Department of Defense annual report of sexual assault in the military, about 1 in 3 Airmen, or 33 percent, reported experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014. There were 1,350 sexual assault reports and prevalence for and estimated 2,400 victims of sexual assault.

This is compared to the following numbers in 2012 -- about 1 in 6 Airmen, or 16 percent, reported experienced unwanted sexual contact; there were 1,050 sexual assault reports and prevalence for an estimated 3,200 victims of sexual assault.

Victims have several resources and tools at their disposal. For restricted reports, victims can talk with their local chaplain, SARC or victim's advocate (security forces, OSI and Airmen's chain of command are legally obligated to report sexual violence).

Each Air Force base has a 24/7 hotline which can be reached by dialing the base prefix followed by SARC -- example 448-SARC (7272) -- or victims can call the DoD Safe Hotline at 877-995-5247.

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