Do something about it; don’t be a bystander to sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Scott King
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It's a crime and often goes unreported; sexual assault. But, many times, with the help of bystanders, it can be prevented and reported.

In 2010, 585 sexual assaults were reported in the Air Force, according to a Gallup, Inc. anonymous survey contracted by the Department of Defense. The Gallup Survey used behavior-based questions derived from specific Uniform Code of Military Justice offenses that cover the full range sexual assaults. The survey results showed that within the 12 months preceding the survey, 3.4 percent of women and .5 percent of men experienced sexual assault. Of those experiencing sexual assault in the preceding year, only 16.7 percent of women and 5.8 percent of men reported the assault. The survey also revealed that since joining the Air Force, 18.9 percent of women and 2.1 percent of men had been sexually assaulted.

Survey participants also identified several reasons they didn't officially report their assaults, officials said. Reasons included not wanting other Airmen, superiors, or family to know, distrust in the reporting process, fear of retaliation or recurrence, or not considering the specific circumstance serious enough to warrant reporting.

"We wanted the clearest possible understanding of the scope and nature of this problem," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz in an Air Force article. "This survey gave us a first-of-a-kind look at how sexual assaults have affected our Air Force community and informs us what we must do to better protect our people from this crime."

There is a program in place across the Air Force and at Fairchild that focuses on sexual assault intervention. It's Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Training and is mandatory for all military members [active duty, guard, Individual Mobilization Augmentee's and reserves] and civilians who supervise military members.

There are three training modules; one for leaders, one for men and one for women. The training is conducted in small groups of no more than 25 participants to promote interaction and discussion.

"The training is interactive, includes vague statements people can decide if they agree with scenarios that they have to determine if someone's actions are inappropriate and if they would intervene or not," said Mrs. Jessica Bradshaw, 92nd Air Refueling Wing sexual assault response coordinator (SARC). This training allows for people to voice their opinions and for others in the class to challenge opinions they do not agree with which can lead to people possibly changing their views on Sexual Assault."

The SARC office is the central point of contact at Fairchild to ensure appropriate care is coordinated and provided to victims of sexual assault, from the initial report through final disposition and resolution.

"Our Fairchild team is comprised of the SARC, an administrative assistant and victim advocates who are committed to ensuring victims of sexual assault are treated with dignity and respect in a safe environment," Bradshaw said. "Reporting is a crucial step following a sexual assault and I believe this training can change some people's perception of sexual assault for the better. There are more bystanders in the Air Force than there are perpetrators or victims of sexual assault. This training is about being preventive before anyone's life is damaged by this crime."

This year's Department of Defense theme "Hurts One. Affects All" and an Air Force-specific message of "Real Wingmen Act" will reinforce the idea of acting as a team, demonstrate the value of bystander intervention and stress collective responsibility for prevention, Schwartz said.

The general underscored his pledge to give every victim a voice following a sexual assault.

"We want all affected Airmen to feel empowered to report this crime," Schwartz said. "We want them to know that we're committed to holding offenders accountable through effective investigations, knowledgeable judge advocate advice and strong unit support and leadership. Sexual assault is a crime that violates our core values, and as an institution, we won't rest until we eliminate this criminal behavior."

To sign up for the training go to or contact the SARC office at 247-4444. Or, if you are interested in becoming a Victim Advocate, contact the office at 247-4444.