21st Space Wing Public Affairs
Peterson Air Force Base began its Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 1 to raise recognition about one of the military’s most under-reported crimes.
This year’s Sexual Assault Month theme is “My strength is for defending,” a theme that according to Jeanine Arnold, 21st Space Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, is meant to encourage Peterson Airmen to use their physical power to prevent problems instead of cause them.
“Our strength is to defend and protect, not to abuse or overpower someone,” said Ms. Arnold.
Peterson’s SARC staff, consisting of Ms. Arnold and Karen Izdepski, 21st SW SARC assistant, shares the 21st SW vice-commander’s philosophy that every Peterson Airman is responsible for preventing sexual assault.
“It’s simple,” said Col. Wayne Monteith, 21st SW vice commander. “As Airmen and professionals, we’re responsible for taking care of each other. The SARC is an invaluable resource in that regard.”
Peterson’s SARC makes no bones about its essential purpose: to advocate for and empower sexual assault victims.
“We offer compassion and safety and we empower victims to make their own decisions about the reporting process,” said Ms. Arnold. “We’re here to let Airmen know what their options are and to guide them through the process.”
The SARC routinely provides referrals for sexual assault victims.
“Victims have the ability to seek our assistance without command notification or Office of Special Investigation inquiry,” said Ms. Izdepski. “We provide medical and mental health referrals, among others.”
There are two types of SARC reports: restricted and unrestricted.
Restricted reports of sexual assault are kept in full confidentiality and do not involve commander interaction or OSI investigation, whereas an unrestricted report is reported “up the chain” of command and does involve investigation and interaction from other local agencies.
While the SARC is Peterson’s sexual assault focal point, the agency would not be able to perform effectively without the aid of other base organizations, including the Victim Witness Advocacy Program, the 21st Medical Group, the 21st Security Forces Squadron, the local OSI and various others.
According to Ms. Arnold, the military environment poses unique risk factors in the realm of sexual assault, particularly in the area of deployments.
“Being in a deployed environment makes certain people feel more insecure and sometimes brings out the worst in that minority,” she said. “But, it can also bring out the best.”
The Department of Defense SARC program was initiated in June 2005. Since then, Ms. Arnold has seen the positive effect of the SARC in terms of educating Airmen about sexual assault and promoting a culture of responsibility in that relatively short period of time.
“The military culture seems much more sophisticated since then in terms of understanding the dynamic [of sexual assault],” she said. “When I do Right Start briefings, people seem to really understand as opposed to four years ago when I would sometimes get blank stares. That’s a huge contrast. It’s encouraging. People seem to understand it’s a community issue and by and large, they’re receptive.”
To further promote Sexual Assault Awareness month, Peterson’s SARC will sponsor a “Fun Run” April 30 and a series of mandatory “Sex Signals” classes for Airmen scheduled for June.
“The “Fun Run” is a popular event and a fun way to let people be involved and raise awareness,” said Ms. Izdepski. “The ‘Sex Signals’ classes are part of an interactive program; there will be six classes total.”
Peterson Airmen in the rank of staff sergeant or above who wish to apply to become a SARC advocate may contact Peterson’s SARC office at 556-7272 for further information. For more information concerning SARC initiatives and new teaching methods geared toward preventing sexual assault, refer to www.myduty.mil.