Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Let’s talk about ‘it’

(U.S.Air Force graphic)

(U.S.Air Force graphic)

by Monica Mendoza

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  — In April, there is going to be a lot of talk about sex. The discussions won’t be easy, and some might feel uncomfortable.

But, it will happen. Across the Air Force, and on Peterson Air Force Base, there will be group discussions, presentations, classes and even a full-fledged review of all Air Force sexual assault prevention programs.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month — a time to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate people on how to prevent sexual violence. And that means talking about it, said Jeanine Arnold, Peterson’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

This year’s Department of Defense theme is “Hurts One. Affects All” with an Air Force specific message of “Real Wingmen Act.” The idea is to reinforce the value of bystander intervention and stress collective responsibility for prevention, said Carl Buchanan, the Air Force Sexual Assault and Response Program manager.

In 2010, there were 585 sexual assaults reported in the Air Force, according to an Air Force survey on sexual assault released in March. Only about 16 percent of the women who said they were sexually assaulted reported it and only 5.8 percent of men reported it.

So, pull up a chair and get ready to learn a few more things about sexual assault prevention, Ms. Arnold said. Peterson will host three key events where Airmen can learn more about bystander intervention and have an honest discussion about dating, sex and non-stranger rape among young people.

On April 19, Dr. Dorothy Edwards, founder and director of the Intervention and Prevention Center at the University of Kentucky, will speak to Airmen about bystander intervention and when and how a person can intervene to stop a sexual assault.

“She is doing something very similar at the University of Kentucky — she trains university students to be active bystanders,” Ms. Arnold said.

Research by sociologists and psychologists shows that bystander intervention is one of the best ways to prevent sexual violence, Ms. Arnold said. A year ago, Airmen began Bystander Intervention Training, a 90-minute course designed to get Airmen thinking about what they could do if they witnessed a sexual assault. To date, about 79 percent of Airmen in the 21st Space Wing have been through the training. Dr. Edwards’ presentation will be a good refresher, Ms. Arnold said.

“Her topic is perfect to put the punctuation point on the Bystander Intervention Training,” Ms. Arnold said. “Unless the information is in front of you, you forget and you go back to the way things were.”

Airmen also will have a chance to talk about dating and sex on April 21 during two shows of “Sex Signals” – a popular, interactive program that culminates with a candid discussion about sexual violence. The show is a series of various dating scenes performed by professional actors, which provokes discussion about sexual assault and prevention.

Most sexual assaults in the Air Force occur while victims are at their home station, as opposed to during deployments or temporary duty assignments, according to the Air Force survey about sexual assault. And, offenders are other Airmen, the survey results showed.

Sex Signals aims to clear up misconceptions about consent and will shed light on reporting procedures.

“Sex signals speaks to where younger Airmen are at in the dating scene,” Ms. Arnold said. “It gets into the harder topics.”

Last year, the Air Force hired Gallup, Inc. to conduct an anonymous survey to better understand the scope and nature of sexual assault in the Air Force and help build a more effective prevention and response program.

“The survey validates what we keep saying, that most rapes are not by a stranger,” Ms. Arnold said.

And, that is certainly something to talk about, she said.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities:

l 10 to 11:30 a.m. April 19, Peterson AFB auditorium – Dr. Dorothy Edwards, founder and director of the Intervention and Prevention Center at the University of Kentucky, will speak to Airmen about bystander intervention.

l 12:30 to 4 p.m. April 19, U.S. Air Force Academy, Arnold Hall – Sexual Assault Awareness Month Workshop featuring a community resource panel that includes detectives from the sex crimes unit and emergency responders and a key note address by Dr. Dorothy Edwards.

l 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5 p.m. April 21, Peterson AFB auditorium – Sex Signals, a popular, interactive program that culminates with a candid discussion about sexual violence.

l 11:30 a.m. April 22, Peterson Sports and Fitness Center – Sexual Assault Awareness Month Fun Run. Participants will receive T-shirts.

Sexual Assault Prevention Victim Advocate:

Jeanine Arnold, Peterson’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator, is recruiting volunteer Victim Advocates, who provide support, liaison services and care to sexual assault victims.

A VA is responsible for crisis intervention, referral and ongoing non-clinical support including providing information on available options and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions about the case. VAs do not provide counseling or other professional services to a victim.

Only active duty military personnel and Department of Defense civilian employees are eligible to serve as VAs. Personnel assigned to MTF, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Security Forces, or the Office of the Wing Chaplain are not eligible to serve as a VA due to the potential conflict of interest. The appropriate unit commander or agency head must concur before a volunteer can be selected as a VA.

To apply to be a VA call Jeanine Arnold at 556-6972.

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