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National Sexual Assault Awareness Month
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the representatives of the Offutt Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office ask everyone to do all they can to prevent sexual assault. U.S. Air Force Graphic by Jeff Gates
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Offutt observes National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Posted 4/20/2010   Updated 4/20/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman
55th Wing Public Affairs

4/20/2010 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Thousands of people every year become victims of sexual assault. In 2008 2,923 servicemembers reported being sexually assaulted, a number that rose to 3,230 in 2009, according to Jennifer McCabe, Offutt's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator.

According to a recent proclamation from President Barack Obama declaring April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, women, men and children across America suffer the pain and trauma of sexual assault every day.

The proclamation also stated that sexual violence can't be ignored and is a crime that disproportionately affects women as an estimated one in six women will experience an attempted or completed rape at some point in her life time.

President Obama, through the proclamation, called upon all Americans to learn of sexual assault and do what must be done to prevent it.

"As a nation, we share the responsibility for protecting each other from sexual assault, supporting victims when it does occur and bringing perpetrators to justice," the proclamation read.

Here at Offutt and across the Department of Defense, a robust campaign to end sexual assault is under way. The theme for the campaign is "Sexual Assault: Hurts one, affects all," and focuses on the effects sexual assault has on mission readiness.

According to the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office's Web site, mission readiness defines a unit's ability to deploy quickly and efficiently. One sexual assault can degrade unit readiness by harming the life of the victim and the military's ability to work effectively as a team, according to the site.

With this theme in mind, Offutt's SAPR Office is doing all it can to raise awareness about sexual assault, as well as various ways to prevent it.

"Sexual assault devastates the victim and in turn causes a ripple effect throughout the unit and the Air Force, negatively impacting its ability to accomplish its mission," said Sharon Ingram, a sexual assault prevention and response technician here.

To bring that to the forefront, Ms. Ingram said, Offutt's SAPR office will offer a free self defense class for women April 23 from 1 to 4 p.m., at Bldg. D, taught by Tech. Sgt. Michael Munyon, a member of the 55th Security Forces Squadron. The First Sergeants Association is also hosting a golf tournament set for April 30, at Willow Lakes Golf Course in support of the month.

However, that's not all the SAPR office is doing here to raise awareness. The office has also started teaching Bystander Intervention Training, a 90-minute course designed to motivate and mobilize Airmen to safely intervene when they see, hear, or otherwise recognize signs of inappropriate behavior.

The class is now being offered to units across Offutt after being scheduled by unit training managers, and is one step, Ms. Ingram said, in the Air Force's mission to eliminate sexual assault.

"The Air Force is on a journey to eliminate sexual assault by fostering a culture of intolerance to such activity, prevention through education and bystander intervention," Ms. Ingram said.

The service, she added, is dedicated to protecting its Airmen and their family members, as well as the civilians who live and work in the Air Force community. Bystander Intervention Training is the latest tool to help with that objective, Ms. Ingram said.

"The course includes discussion, exercises and scenario-supported learning in a fast paced environment. It will provide Airmen with a variety of methods to approach other Airmen to help prevent sexual assault and eliminate it from the Air Force," she added.

One important element of the sexual assault response program are victim advocates, volunteers who provide support, liaison services and care for victims of sexual assault.

There are 15 victim advocates at Offutt to assist victims in making informed decisions about their situation, Ms. McCabe said.

One of Offutt's victim advocates is Capt. S. Evaine Mansfield, a pilot and assistant Alpha Flight commander with the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron. The captain said she helps people, in what for many is their darkest hour, despite how difficult it may be.

"I feel good helping (victims) but every situation kind of leaves a mark on me," Captain Mansfield said. "It's good to be there to help the person and that's really rewarding, but at the same time, you feel like crap cause they're put in that position and you kind of go through the same emotions the victim does, so you feel what they're feeling."

As a victim advocate, the captain said, she's helped numerous people including one Airman who called her around the clock after she was assaulted, sometimes after midnight just to talk. The captain counseled her and helped her get the support she needed.

Captain Mansfield, who became a victim advocate only three months after arriving at Offutt, calls on all Airmen to do what they can to prevent sexual assault and to support and never doubt those who are victimized.

With sexual assault the victim has had his or her choice taken away and been put in a situation he or she didn't choose to be in, Captain Mansfield said.

"So many times people are quick to blame the victim, which is so wrong, cause there's nothing anyone can do that ever deserves being assaulted," she said.

Anyone interested in becoming a victim advocate, registering for a BIT class, or more information about local SAAM events, can call the SAPR Office here at 232-9999.

For more information about the DOD sexual assault awareness campaign, click here.

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