Everyone responsible for sexual assault prevention

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. O. G. Mannon
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
We've been privileged this week to host the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services, which is visiting military bases around the world looking at prevention and response programs. 

It's a good opportunity to talk about our local programs and policies. As commander, I have three basic priorities regarding sexual assault:
1. Prevention.
2. Support and assistance for victims.
3. Accountability for those who violate our standards. 

Job one is to prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place. It is a crime that destroys individuals, families and military units, so each one of us must take responsibility for preventing sexual assault. 

Prevention starts with knowledge, so we need to clearly understand what the term "sexual assault" means. Here's the official definition: 

Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. It includes rape, nonconsensual sodomy (oral or anal sex), indecent assault (unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling), or attempts to commit these acts. It can occur without regard to gender, spousal relationship or age of victim. "Consent" shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the victim to offer physical resistance. Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, or unconscious.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Office leads the charge in prevention, and commanders, flight chiefs, first sergeants and supervisors all play critical roles. But it's everyone's job. Ultimately, it's a Wingman duty--part of our responsibility to look out for each other and intervene to protect our fellow Airmen. Alcohol often plays a role in sexual assault, so when alcohol is present we must be especially vigilant. 

We are making great progress, but sadly we don't always succeed in preventing sexual assault. When sexual assault occurs, our priority must be caring for the victim. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, along with a number of volunteer counselors, has the training and experience to help victims and ensure they get the counseling and medical care they need. 

Victims who report a sexual assault to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator may do so without notifying law enforcement or their chain of command--this is called a restricted report and remains completely confidential. They may also choose at any time to make an unrestricted report, in which the chain of command and law enforcement are notified and an investigation opened. 

No matter how victims choose to report a sexual assault, they deserve compassionate, timely and competent care and support. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator is uniquely qualified to provide that support, but commanders, chaplains, coworkers and friends can also play a critical role in helping victims cope with a traumatic and devastating event. 

When the chain of command or law enforcement is notified of a sexual assault, it will be vigorously investigated, and those who commit this crime will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Such people have no place in our Air Force. 

I expect everyone on this base and in the 82nd Training Wing to know and abide by our policies and laws. There is no tolerance for sexual assault at Sheppard or the 82nd Training Wing. Period. 

I also expect everyone to do their part in preventing sexual assault. Be a good wingman and watch out for your friends and fellow Airmen. Units or individuals who want more information on how to prevent this crime may call the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Office at 676-0364. 

If you are a victim of sexual assault, I strongly encourage you to call the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator any time--day or night--at 676-7272. They will keep your report confidential and ensure you get the support, care and assistance you need.