By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 50th Space Wing’s top brass hosted a commander’s call May 12 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, as part of the installation’s Wingman and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response week.
During the commander’s call Col. Bill Liquori, 50 SW commander, focused on the offenders, their characteristics or indicators, their reasons for committing these crimes, and how good wingmen can stop them.
“We have to be able to look to our right and to our left and know we can count on each other,” Liquori said. “If you are not comfortable because there is an environment that allows these crimes to continue, then you can’t look to your right and left and know that you can count on that person and know that both of you together could go forward to perform your mission.”
To provide a clear picture, Liquori showed the Department of the Defense and Air Force reports on sexual assault.
According to a DOD study, there were 3,259 sexual assault incidents in the military in fiscal year 2012. Of those, only 24 percent or 790 individuals reported the incident. Additionally, only 449 were unrestricted reports. Air Force data on sexual assaults for fiscal year 2013 indicated of 1,047 reports, 790 were unrestricted, which is a 33 percent increase from 2012.
“It is when we get into unrestricted reports that we are able to hold someone accountable for their actions,” Liquori said. “What we can do as individuals, as a squadron, as a group and as a wing is to make sure that the [victims] become more comfortable coming forward, to know that we are here to help, we have the resources available and we have actions that we can take.”
In a continuum of harm assessment, the colonel emphasized the need for prevention. Individuals must identify potential perpetrator’s characteristics or indicators, the behavior progression, and the methods and means for perpetrators to overcome resistance. These include the environment, target, opportunities, as well as inappropriate behaviors and advances, and facilitators, such as alcohol, drugs, coercion, blackmail and more.
Some of the potential perpetrator characteristics include hostility toward members of the opposite sex, lower levels of empathy, holding traditional gender role stereotypes and using powerful rationalizations to excuse their behavior as non-criminal.
“We need you as a squadron, as groups and as a wing to become comfortable stepping in [on the prevention side] when that type of behavior happens in our workplaces and not condone it,” Liquori said. “These are not acceptable behaviors and they’re the start of the problem. [If] we step in, we can prevent the crime from happening.”
Liquori also commended the organizations that provide assistance to the victims, such as the sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocates, chaplains, medical professionals and others.
Whether restricted on unrestricted, the procedure for victim assistance includes assigning SARC and VA to the victim, safety assessment, medical treatment, forensic examination, legal support with special victims’ counsel, counseling options and continued support.
“My hope is that you are comfortable to do an unrestricted report but if you are not, know that there are still resources out there that will help you,” Liquori said.
The commander also unveiled the Air Force’s SAPR strategy to help curb sexual assault: deterring perpetrators, encouraging victims to come forward, and building and reinforcing the Air Force climate. To accomplish this strategy, the Air Force needs everyone, including the Airmen, leaders, supervisors and support agencies.
“This crime has absolutely no place in our Air Force and our wing,” the colonel said. “We have to be willing to talk about it. We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable. We have to be willing to step in and stop the problem.”
Liquori concluded the commander’s call with a challenge to every Schriever Airman, both civilian and military, to understand the issue, talk openly and honestly, have personal involvement, proactively evaluate the culture, and be accountable.
“We can’t fail our friends and our fellow Airmen,” Liquori said. “We’re all part of this together. We have to be able to count on the person to our right and to our left.”