MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) – As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a briefing was held April 18 here, to help educate Airmen on the impact of sexual assault across the service and the nation and how they can get involved in the fight to change the culture that supports it.
Speaking during the briefing was Anne Munch, the owner of Anne Munch Consulting, Inc., and a recognized subject-matter expert in speaking, training and consulting on sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. During her time, she spoke of a third-party influence on sexual assault crimes, beyond the victim and offender, who she named the “unnamed” conspirator.
“It’s an honor to have such a phenomenal speaker come in that is so highly sought after in the sexual assault prevention field,” said Holly Wick, 341st Missile Wing sexual assault response coordinator. “It was great to be able to get her here and have her relay the message in a different way.”
Munch’s presentation started with a brief introduction and a little bit of her background.
“In law school, they taught me that there were two people involved in (an interpersonal) crime,” Munch said. You’ve got the victim and the offender. What they tell in you law school is that justice will be determined based on what happened between these two players…”
As I started trying cases of sexual assault … I realized that there was a third party that was involved in each and every one of them. This third party wasn’t listed in the police reports, (they) didn’t come into the court and testify, (they) didn’t go back into the jury room and deliberate, they never did any of those kinds of things; but they were involved in each case to the point where they were having an influence over the outcome of the case even though they weren’t named as a party. Not only were they having an influence over the outcome of the case, they were having the lion’s share over the outcome of all of my cases.”
Munch told the story of the ‘unnamed conspirator’ through various anecdotes she knew from either personal experience or the work that she has done in the past. Eventually, she announced the unnamed conspirator as the society within the United States.
According to a CNN Poll conducted in 1991, 38 percent of men and 37 percent of women said that a raped woman is partly to blame if she dresses provocatively, she said.
“A lot of people think that way, and it’s alive and well in the military,” Munch added. “And I have a problem with that. The unnamed conspirator is you and me — it’s the way that we think … It’s the thoughts and things that we have all kind of consumed as we have been raised in this culture.”
Munch presents the story of the unnamed conspirator to audiences nationwide and encourages them all to change the way they think in an effort to change the culture that supports sexual assault.
“The most important message to take home from Munch’s presentation is to realize that we all have some type of prejudice or bias, and that sometimes we need to look outside the box or our comfort zones to see the subliminal messages we impact on a daily basis,” Wick said. “We need to not to always take the easiest option to blame the victim and to think about the whole situation instead of singling out an individual before coming to a conclusion.”
Munch encouraged each Airman to stand up and take part in changing the culture that supports sexual assault in the Air Force. She also spoke of the importance of letting the victims know that, even in today’s culture, sexual assault is never their fault.
“It’s something that we don’t like to think about, but typically, you’ll have people … who have experienced (sexual assault) and are dealing with it at one level or another,” she said. “So one of the most important things I feel about my work is just acknowledging them and getting them, especially the silent survivors, to understand the concepts around the ‘unnamed conspirator’ and especially to communicate that it’s not their fault.”
Sexual assault doesn’t stop at the victim. A sexual assault crime can affect the victim’s family, friends and coworkers. In some cases, the impact a sexual assault has on a victim’s closest relatives might be something that they may need to seek help for.
“I’ve had men, who have girlfriends or wives who were assaulted in their lives, (talk to me about) how much it impacts them in their relationships and in their marriages,” Munch said. “They ask about things they can do to be more supportive because unfortunately, this is a really traumatic event for any human being … The trauma has a life of its own, and it continues to effect people into the future.”
As she spoke of the future, Munch explained that every Airman has a place in a future that supports a culture against sexual assault. The unnamed conspirator — everyone — has the ability to impact the justice of sexual assault crimes. By stepping up and saying something, or enforcing the Air Force’s zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, everyone can have a positive impact on a culture change.