By Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Department of Defense along with Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office officials have developed a strategy for promoting a safe working environment for Airmen by creating a program that teaches awareness and support through many different types of learning scenarios. The different avenues of education on sexual assault awareness provides information needed to aid in preventing a sexual assault from happening.
The SAPR office at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., encourages leadership involvement, peer to peer mentorship and community involvement for victims of sexual assault. Through the use of these elements, victims can find comfort and safety during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
Leadership involvement includes leaders at all levels. The involvement of leadership is key for the prevention of sexual assault. Leaders are responsible for the morale and welfare of their subordinates. Without providing the opportunity for victims of sexual assault to get help or have somebody to talk to, leaders endanger these aspects of a successful unit.
“Little Rock AFB leadership promotes sexual assault prevention,” said Linda Benjamin, a 19th Airlift Wing SAPR victim’s advocate. “Through commander’s calls, leading by example, enforcing zero tolerance and any other type of avenue that becomes available, leadership at all levels recognizes the need to communicate SAPR messages to the Team Little Rock community.”
They also obtain and utilize the resources necessary for running or promoting a successful SAPR program. The chain of command is vital in establishing the climate of safety and trust among coworkers. If leadership encourages this type of environment and active use of the SAPR program, studies show members will potentially feel more comfortable coming forward with issues and reports of incidents.
Peer-to-peer mentorship is also an important aspect of recovery for victims of sexual assault. This type of mentorship does not limit itself to supervisors and subordinates, but promotes healthy relationships between peers, partners, family and friends and provides the opportunity for people to get to know each other’s personalities and characteristics.
“Knowing your friends, partner and family members is important because you will notice a change if something is wrong,” said Benjamin. “When a person’s mood changes or they seclude themselves from the people they care about, a cause for concern is warranted.”
Peer-to-peer mentorship also encourages a healthy command environment and aids in the prevention of potential sexual assaults through open communication and advice.
According to the 2014 SAPR campaign materials guide, the following are all part of successful peer-to-peer mentorship and reinforce core military values and professional standards: victim empathy, bystander intervention against any unacceptable behavior, healthy relationships, moderate and responsible alcohol use and ensuring consent for sexual activity.
Community involvement also assists in the recovery process for a victim of sexual assault. Leaders and SAPR coordinators partner with resources throughout the community to enhance unit welfare. Incorporating prevention and response efforts such as advocacy groups, assistance from base health care providers and guidance from subject matter experts are incorporated into the SAPR program and build a resilient, sensitive and supportive community for victims of sexual assault.
“We offer many different recovery options for victims of sexual assault,” said Benjamin. “From mental health to trained victim’s advocates located in units throughout the base, we provide opportunities to take care of victims of sexual assault. Building relationships with off-base law enforcement, crisis centers and health care providers is also key to effective community involvement.”
Through elements such as leadership involvement, peer-to-peer mentorship and community involvement, victims can seek guidance and help that is needed to push through hard times. The strategies, through consistent utilization are also important to prevent sexual assault.
For more information on the Air Force SAPR program, visit www.sapr.mil, or contact the Little Rock AFB SAPR office at (501) 987- 2685. Team Little Rock’s sexual assault hotline is (501) 987-7272.