Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month: #NotJustApril

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The goal of SAAPM is to raise public awareness regarding sexual violence and to educate individuals and communities on prevention. While any form of unwanted sexual behavior can be uncomfortable or difficult to discuss, it is an issue that exists in every community throughout the country and all over the world.

On awareness: According RAINN, on average there are over 293,000 victims of sexual assault each year in the U.S. To bring it closer to home, the most recent release of the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, the Department of Defense received 6,172 reports of sexual assault in FY16. Additionally, the results of the anonymous Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members indicates that approximately 14,900 service members experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact. We cannot simply hope that the issue of sexual violence will go away — each of us needs to be actively engaged in preventing it. It is not simply the trauma that stays with a survivor for so long after the assault. It is also the response of those around them — the people they told and the society that often blames survivors, that belittles and jokes about these issues. If you or someone you know would like more information about reporting options or types of available services, please call one of our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response staff members at 719-554-7272, 719-556-7840, 719-556-6972 or the 24/7 hotline at 719-556-7272. Assistance is available for all military members, their dependents over the age of 18, GS and NAF civilians, regardless of when or where the assault occurred.

On prevention: One of the most common techniques of sexual assault prevention education has been a focus on risk reduction. Albeit, always a good practice, an overwhelming focus is placed on the victim’s behavior and not the perpetrator’s, where it belongs. Each of us, however, has a role to play in prevention where we have opportunities to step in or make a difference if you see someone at risk. It could be as simple as giving someone a safe ride home from a party or diverting a person who is engaging in uncomfortable or inappropriate behavior. Rarely is a bystander present when a sexual assault occurs, but often there is a potential witness to multiple circumstances leading up to the crime. You don’t have to be a hero or even stand out from the crowd to be able to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Your actions matter! Whether or not you were able to change the outcome of a situation, when you step in, you are helping change the way people think about their roles in preventing sexual assault. I challenge you to make a commitment to educate yourself about sexual violence in all its forms, to understand the culture surrounding sexual assault, become an engaged bystander, and promote healthy and safe relationships.

Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission…#NotJustApril