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NEWS | April 8, 2008

Ask, act, intervene: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Bernadette Hardy Sexual assault response coordinator

Prevent Sexual Assault: Ask if friends need help. Act when they do. Intervene when you see trouble. 

The theme focuses on the ability of every servicemember to prevent sexual assault by taking an active role in looking out for the welfare of friends and coworkers. 

Research shows that most people have difficulty identifying situations that require intervention. 

Even if someone knows there is a problem, studies show that no one is likely to act if others don't take the initiative to respond. 

As Langley community leaders, including the sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocates and commanders, we want to encourage everyone to ask, act and intervene in situations where people may be in jeopardy. This is especially important when alcohol is involved. Taking a stance against potential perpetrators of sexual assault can make a difference. Creating an environment of mutual respect and assistance is key to prevention. 

Sexual violence is a major public health issue which is 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. 

Last year there were 12 incidents reported to the sexual assault prevention and response office. It's my hope that with education and training, Langley will reduce the number of occurrences. 

Myths and facts regarding sexual assault

"Strangers commit most sexual assault crimes."
Fact: The "non-stranger" -- a date, co-worker, casual acquaintance, relative or spouse - is the most likely perpetrator of a sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice statistics, "nearly 70 percent of victims know their attacker." 

Myth: "Sexual assaults only happen to women because men can fight back - physically -and prevent this type of attack."
Fact: Sexual assault is an equal opportunity crime for women and men. Research statistics indicate that one in three military women, one in four women in general society and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted. Alcohol and drugs can incapacitate men as easily as women. 

Myth: "You can't prevent a sexual assault; it's just bad luck."
Fact: You can empower yourself and those around you when you're aware of the tactics sexual perpetrators use. These criminals are less likely to assault someone who is aware of their tactics because perpetrators count on their victim's innocence and vulnerability. 

No one deserves to be victimized; we are here to help survivors through the process of such a traumatic event via a restricted or unrestricted reporting option: survivors receive medical care, counseling and advocacy. We're here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week - just call us at 764-7272. 

Anyone can become a victim of sexual assault, but there are some things that people - particularly Airmen - can do to reduce their risk: 
- Avoid dark, vacant, or deserted areas.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is - walk away.
- Avoid walking alone at night if at all possible.
- Avoid jogging alone, day or night.
- Carry noise-making device - such as a whistle - have it ready to use.
- Don't hitchhike, day or night. Use well-traveled routes.
- Be aware of what is going on around you.
- Walk purposefully and briskly. Walk in the center of the sidewalk, away from buildings, doorways, hedges, and parked cars.
- When possible, walk on the side of the street facing oncoming traffic. If you are walking with traffic and a car going in the same direction pulls up next to you, reverse your direction.
- If a stranger tries to engage you in a conversation, use discretion before stopping to talk. It's a good idea to say that you are in a hurry to meet someone.
- Have the key to your home ready as you approach your door.
- If you are dropped off by a taxi or someone in an automobile, ask the driver to wait until you're safely inside.
- Be aware that alcohol and other drugs may impede your ability to think clearly, communicate effectively and react appropriately. 

Personal safety classes
Personal safety classes are scheduled for April 22 and 24 at 5 p.m. at the Air Combat Command Fitness Center. The women's class is April 22, and the men's class is April 24. To register, call the Langley Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at 764-7272.