Prevent sexual assault: Know, do your part
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Adult sexually assaulted by a friend on-base... child sexually maltreated on-base," both were phrases plastered onto a hard-shelled military helmet, clear for hundreds of Airmen and Sailors to see as they walked silently by. These were only two of the more than fifty camouflaged helmets that were lined up, each depicting a violent act that shook the lives of Misawa Airmen and their families.
The event, termed the "Silent Walk," was designed to raise awareness that these crimes do happen here.
Although the Air Force is engaged in eliminating sexual assault 24/7, April marks Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month highlighting the necessity of caring for one's wingman.
This year's Department of Defense theme is "know your part, do your part," highlighting the fact that sexual assault is a problem affecting all Airmen.
First Lt. Caitlin Williams, 35th Fighter Wing sexual assault response coordinator, communicated that sexual assault is a major issue across the world and by spreading awareness, Airmen are more likely to take part in the fight against this crime.
"People who commit sexual assault make up a very small part of the military, but the rest of us still need to do our part to prevent it from happening," said Williams. "Effectively responding to sexual assaults is critical to the health, morale and welfare of Airmen and is ultimately essential to Air Force readiness."
Staff Sgt. Janelle Barnes, 35th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response NCO in charge, said people must know what is expected of them.
"We often notice dangerous situations and turn a blind eye to [sexual assault] instead of intervening or lending a listening ear," said Barnes. "We should all make it our business."
With the goal of spreading awareness and educating Misawa on how to handle situations like these, the Misawa sexual assault prevention and response office organized five events throughout April including the "Silent Walk," watching "The Hunting Ground," a bowl-a-thon and a Storyteller luncheon.
"A lot of the time people have no idea what is even happening at their home station," said Williams. "These events show people that [sexual assault] happens at Misawa and lets survivors know they are not alone."
During the "Silent Walk," violent acts that have occurred specifically at Misawa during fiscal year 2015 and 2016 were shown with red cards placed on helmets, bringing the severity of the issue home.
Although these events were planned in conjunction with SAAPM, there are also activities set to occur throughout the year, coinciding with the DOD and Air Force's plan to engage Airmen all year long.
Misawa's efforts to educate its populace have produced positive results over the years. Williams said reports here doubled from fiscal year 2014 to 2015, showing more people are comfortable getting help than in years past.
"Sexual assault can happen to any man, woman or child; your age and gender don't matter," Williams said. "It's important to let survivors of sexual assault know they are not alone and that there is someone on base who is willing to help him or her."