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Sheppard SARC: Working toward eliminating sexual assault
Participants get hands on training at the Target Intervention Class held the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month in building 920 room C103 at 8 am. The classes are offered through the SARC Office and are open to all Sheppard personnel. For more information please call 940-676-0365. (U.S. Air Force/Courtesy Photo)
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Sheppard SARC: Working toward eliminating sexual assault

Posted 7/19/2012   Updated 7/19/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Kimberly Dagdag
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs


7/19/2012 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The number of on-base sexual assaults reported at Sheppard has decreased 14 percent since 2009, thanks in part to innovative programs that directly involve the base's large student population.

One sexual assault is too many, however, and Sheppard along with the Air Force as a whole is committed to eliminating this crime from our population.

"America's Airmen deserve nothing less than our full devotion to eradicating the threatening behavior to their well being. This crime threatens our people and for that reason alone it is intolerable and incompatible with who and what we are," said General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff.

Several new programs at the Air Force and local level are helping to combat this crime and to care for victims of sexual assault, which the Air Force defines as "intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (to include unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact), or attempts to commit these acts."

Sheppard's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office has two primary missions: first, provide help and support to victims of sexual assault; second, to educate and train on the prevention of sexual assault. According to Valerie Cook, the 82nd Training Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, it's important for all Airmen to understand the program, because sexual assault can happen to anyone, men and women alike.

"Sexual assault has no boundaries and anyone can fall victim to this crime," said Cook. "Making sure everyone understands that is one of our top goals, and utilizing the active bystander approach goes a long way in providing the needed intervention by a caring wingman."

Cook said the annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response conference will be held in August, and the program is constantly growing and adapting and many changes have already been put into effect.

The Safe Helpline was launched about a year ago, and provides an immediate, safe and mobile tool for victims to report an assault and get help. The Safe Helpline can be reached on the web at www.safehelpline.org, by phone at 877-995-5247 or by text message at 55-247 (202-470-5546 outside the U.S.).

There have also been changes to the reporting process itself. Now, all reports will remain restricted - meaning they will not be reported to the chain of command or law enforcement officials - unless the victim requests an unrestricted report. Cases can and will remain restricted as long as no one in the victim's chain of command or law enforcement has knowledge of the case. Restricted reporting is also now available to military spouses and their dependents over 18. Reports from victims under 18 will be referred to the Family Advocacy Office.

Locally, Cook said her office is working a number of initiatives to educate the base populace about sexual assault and sexual misconduct and how they can help prevent this crime. Cook said the key is getting involved with Airmen - especially students, since they'll carry the knowledge and training they receive here through the rest of their Air Force careers.

One of the most effective local efforts has been the Air Force's first student advocate program, Students against Sexual Assault and Harassment (SASH), which started in 2010. The SASH program has been crucial in making the process of reporting a sexual assault more comfortable for Airmen by offering peer support and referral to the SARC Office.

"The program really helps bridge the gap between our Airmen and us," said Valerie Cook, 82nd Training Wing SARC Chief.

Cook and her team also created an interactive briefing called the "Airmen Bystander Course." The 90-minute session incorporates Air Force Core values with bystander training and challenges each person to be a leader, a wingman and ultimately to look after one another. The training is interactive and forces Airmen to think about potential scenarios and how they would react.

In addition, the SARC Office hosted and participated in the Sheppard "Race 2 Awareness" run (mirrored after the program The Amazing Race); teams ran to different agencies on base to get clues that would lead them to their next obstacle. The office also has plans to be a part of the Sheppard Club, "Girl's Night Out" event. A unique approach will be to serve non-alcoholic "mocktails," showing that you do not need an alcoholic beverage to fit in. In addition to the "mocktails," the SARC staff will be handing out drink coasters that are designed to detect date rape drugs.

"We're doing everything we can to educate people on the issues of consent, sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Coming forward to report a sexual assault or misconduct is not always an easy thing to do but it is the right thing to do, holding people accountable," Cook said. "An important step if we are to stop this crime."

If you have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, you can get help 24/365 by calling the SARC at (940) 676-0364 or by using the Safe Helpline contacts above. If you have knowledge of sexual misconduct it can be reported 24/7 anonymously by calling 210-652-4007 or DSN: 487-4007.



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