Step up to stop sexual assaults
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The military is battling an invisible enemy, one who lurks among us and attacks when the opportunity presents itself. Within the Pacific Air Force, there were 52 allegations of this crime reported last year.
This April marks the 10th Annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The base's Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and its team of victim advocates are asking you to heed this year's theme, "Step Up to Stop Sexual Assaults."
"Sexual assaults are one of the most underreported crimes, and the military environment sometimes adds another barrier to people reporting this crime," said Robin Sherard, newly appointed 35th Fighter Wing SARC.
Airmen are taught they are part of a unified team, so when something like sexual assault or harassment happens, some may be hesitant to report the issue. Sherard further explains that some Airmen may be hesitant to report their coworkers because they feel like it's betraying their work environment's circle of trust.
Simply put, for the newer and younger members of the Air Force, it can be harder for them to "find their voice," Sherard says.
Recently, Air Force leadership recognized Misawa's "Find Your Voice" campaign initiative, which brings sexual assault to light under the lead of Col. Stephen Williams, 35 FW commander.
"In the past several months, commanders were innovative in creating interactive and compelling activities to combat sexual assault," said Gen. Herbert Carlisle, PACAF commander. "...bold and mutually supportive Airmen have stepped in to look after their fellow Airmen, ensuring their safety."
Carlisle addressed PACAF Airmen, calling them to arms against sexual assault. He asked Airmen to "Step up, be part of the solution, and, when appropriate, report the crimes and support victims."
For Raymond Torp, 35 FW sexual assault prevention and response specialist, he feels the Air Force and Department of Defense have always been proactive about taking care of its people.
"We are a reflection of the greater society, and the military is way in front in the effort to combat sexual assault," Torp said.
As Misawa's SARC program continues to build a team of dedicated members to tackle sexual assault prevention head-on, the hope is for all Misawa members to step up, find their voice and stomp out sexual assaults. While every member of the SARC team is relatively new to Misawa, together they bring decades of experience from other bases.
The team is currently putting together a program to train facilitators, who will return to their units and teach bystander intervention and sexual assault prevention. They are also starting an outreach program in order to strengthen their ties with our sister services. The SARC team is committed to providing care to all victims regardless of their service or status.
One of the biggest challenges for the team is building rapport within the community to express that the SARC office, along with Wing leadership, is committed to ensuring everyone's safety. The team started a "Take Back the Night" event, partnering with the Wing's Town Patrol on Friday and Saturday nights from now through April 26, so the community knows they are present and available.
Sherard feels these patrols will enable the SARC office to take note of trends, helping them learn where potential risk factors for sexual assaults are present.
The SARC office is seeking to recruit new victim advocates to ensure a team of dedicated supporters are available around the clock with the skills to provide essential support and care to victims, assist them in making informed decisions, and provide information on the process of restricted and unrestricted reporting. Interested applicants must be 21 years old and the rank of E-4 or above.
With informational booths and workshops scheduled throughout the month of April, the SARC team is hoping to bring as much awareness and support as they can to help spread the Air Force's Zero Tolerance message.
"Our collective adherence to our Air Force Core Values and standards of behavior will reduce risk, stop inappropriate behavior, and move us closer to a culture free of sexual harassment and assault," Carlisle said.
For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities, contact the SARC team at 226-7271 or click here.
Do you know your reporting options? To see restricted or unrestricted reporting options, please visit this factsheet.