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Commentary | April 16, 2010

Don’t Be A Bystander

By Bernadette Hardy Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

Bystanders are just that -- people that know something is happening but fail to act to stop it. What hurts one, hurts all. Sexual assault is a serious crime, even if the victim engaged in behaviors that might seem "risky". "No" does not mean "maybe." Sexual assault continues to be the most under-reported crime in America and the military is no different, but we all can do something by taking a stand or intervening when we see an event occurring or about to happen.

Sexual violence is a major public health issue, plaguing members of our community. Our members want to work and play in a safe environment, but each year many become the victims of some form of violence. In 209, there were 22 incidents reported to the Langley Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office; overall, there was an 11percent increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military.

Did you know that in most reported rapes, the rapist is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend or relative? Acquaintance rape is less likely to be reported to authorities than rape by strangers. Acquaintance rape frequently occurs under circumstances where the victim, the attacker or both have been drinking or are intoxicated. The victim of an acquaintance rape may not recognize it as a crime or consider the incident a rape and blame themselves for the occurrence, when in reality it is not their fault. No one has the right to take advantage of anyone -- any sexual act initiated on a person without their consent is against the law.

Sexual assaults can happen to anyone - you, your child, friends, co-workers, and family, man or woman. The stranger in the ski mask, hiding in the bushes does not commit the majority of rapes; it is the non-stranger. Non-stranger assaults are a betrayal of trust at an opportunistic movement. A sexual assault is the intentional sexual contact, characterized by the use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority when the victim does not or cannot consent.

Risk reduction and prevention is the key. Don't wait until it happens -- take steps to protect yourself or prevent something from happening! Self-defense and situational awareness is a matter of personal security! April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and there are many observance activities in our communities get out and show your support for survivors everywhere.

No one deserves to be victimized; however, if you have been, we are here to assist survivors with empathetically processing through an unfortunate experience. A response team is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the SARC at 764-7272. Your personal safety is our concern.