Commentary

April 11, 2014

SAAM to raise awareness, respect, change culture

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response mission is to ensure that all victims of sexual assault receive the care and support they require and to use education and intervention as a primary means of achieving an environment free of sexual assault.

With the advent of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the 56th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team hopes to engage all in expanded awareness. All of us have a role in prevention.

The theme for the Defense Department this year is “Live Our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, commonly known as SAAM, is designed to bring attention to the silenced and provides a chance to recognize the victims, survivors and their families.

The SAPR team is made up of certified victim advocates, peer-to-peer trainers, survivors and families, leadership within all ranks and those who are filled with concern for the future of the Air Force.

Sexual assault can happen to both men and women. Statistically, the highest-risk reported age group is 18 to 24 year olds. The problem is not a strictly military issue, universities and colleges are being challenged to provide more accurate numbers to reflect the crime of sexual assault that occurs on their campuses as well.

Here at Luke the SAPR team provides ongoing outreach, prevention and training. While there are practices that might reduce the risk of sexual assault – the Wingman concept, keeping an eye on drinks and being aware of surroundings – it is important to remember these only reduce the risks, they do not prevent assaults from happening.

We have all heard every excuse of why assaults occur. But as with other crimes of violation, it is never the victim’s fault. People try to come up with scenarios to remove the blame. There is no acceptable reason for anyone to ever violate another person.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month extends beyond the gates of Luke, as a national effort to raise awareness, promote respect and change the culture.

We are bombarded by unbalanced media norms and the entertainment industry, including television programing, performing artists and so on. There is an increasing predominate message that the degradation of self and others is OK. This unbalanced message exploits our culture and shapes the social norms we are surrounded by, whether we engage in them or not. This is the area that deserves more of our attention.

Sexual violations are really human rights’ violations. This is a problem that should not exist in the world and should certainly not exist in the Air Force.

If we respect one another, and have compassion and empathy, things can continue to change for the better. It’s all about respect and awareness.




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