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Your Friendly Neighborhood SARC

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elbert Laza
  • 451st AEW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
April is finally here! This marks a significant month for the sexual assault prevention community as we prepare for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

There are two themes out there which highlight the need for our own personal involvement as Airmen. The DoD theme "Hurts one. Affects all...Preventing sexual assault is everyone's duty" coincides with the national theme "It's time... to get involved."

As members of the armed forces, our mission keeps us focused on the task at hand. We perform our missions, which can put us in harm's way, but in spite of this risk each Airman admirably performs their duties contributing to our overall team's success. When a sexual assault occurs it causes great strain within the unit by hurting one and affecting all. The aftermath of an assault changes the organization's climate, breaks cohesion, and hits members within the chain of command hardest- ultimately taking away mission focus. We can only be successful as a team. It's important that we all recognize that sexual assaults are an issue for all of us and remove any thoughts that they "don't apply to me."

Recognizing that sexual assaults do happen and can happen to anyone raises our awareness that it's a problem that we need to stop not only as a military, but as a nation. The cultural shift towards bystander intervention is a step in the right direction because it places individual responsibilities on our junior enlisted all the way to our upper leadership. Bystander intervention empowers us, regardless of rank, to step in and stop the situation from escalating to an assault. The end state we are achieving is a climate of respect and understanding, and there is no room for this crime in our Air Force.

I need each and every one of you to help me promote the program by involving yourself. If anyone confides in you that they have been assaulted support them without passing judgment, encourage them to make a restricted report with the SARC or Victim Advocates. Healthcare providers can also take restricted reports and you're covered by confidentiality by the chaplain. While the DOD prefers that you make an unrestricted report, coming forward and seeking help is the first step to recovery. Sexual assaults are the most under reported crime and often one in five assaults are reported.

With that said, let's stop this silence from continuing. As April comes and goes continue to be vigilant and watch over one another.