Have you helped a perpetrator commit sexual assault?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Morgan Lipinski
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Milwaukee- You are a good person. You are hard working. You stay true to your word. You help others when you can. Why would you allow a perpetrator to commit sexual assault?

In the U.S. Air Force Sexual Assault Report for 2016, approximately 1,355 reports of sexual assault were filed in fiscal 2016, compared to 1,312 reports in fiscal 2015. These numbers do not include the number of cases that were not reported. The U.S. Air Force have not yet released the report for 2017; however, after seeing these reports, military leadership immediately enlisted the help of everyday Airmen and civilians to stop sexual assault. 

Capt. Jamie Reidy, the 128th Air Refueling Wing sexual assault response coordinator, states that, in the military, Airmen are among the leading defense against sexual assault because they can recognize the signs of high-risk situations and intervene before the crime takes place.

"The power of the bystander is that they can step in to stop sexual assault before it happens, but many people don't because it can be intimidating," said Reidy.

Bystanders hesitate to intervene for a variety of reasons to include not knowing the victim or perpetrator, uncertainty about the situation's seriousness, and for fear of personal safety. 

"It takes a lot of guts to stand up against a perpetrator, so if you're unsure to step in, that's okay," said Reidy. "Just take a moment to ask yourself if you'd feel comfortable leaving someone you love in that situation. If you're not, then you know to intervene."

Red flags that bystanders can look for to assess a potentially high-risk situation include verbal harassment, unwanted touching, and the persistence to isolate a potential target.

Staff Sgt. Westley Klasen, a network infrastructure technician with the 128 ARW Communication Flight and 128 ARW Sexual Assault Prevention and Response victim's advocate, stressed the important role Airmen have in stopping sexual assault.

"People tend to try and avoid conflict and I get that, but stopping a crime before it happens can make the difference," said Klasen. "And [intervening] can be as simple as literally standing between a victim and perpetrator to interrupt them talking." 

The 128 ARW conducts regular Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training to prepare Airmen to detect and deter inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Noted in the 128 ARW Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute Organizational climate survey, 93 percent of Airmen surveyed reported that they would intervene in a potentially dangerous situations such as sexual assault.

The United States Air Force promotes the concept that the best way to protect the mission is to protect each other as wingmen first. 

"Sexual assault has serious effects on people's ability to do their job," said Klasen. "It effects unit cohesion, it effects the person's trust in leadership, and it completely destroys morale. We need to remember our core values, care about each other as Wingmen, and look out for each other as a team."

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is observed each year during the month of April to raise awareness and educate communities on the prevention of sexual assault.