News>SAPR down-day focuses on perpetrator ID, helping victims
Col. Mark Ramsey, 42nd Air Base Wing vice commander, gave a briefing during the 42nd ABW Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down-day at Maxwell Air Force Base, June 11, 2014. The SAPR down-day is a time for service members to focus on the problem of sexual assault in the military, understand it, and learn how to combat the issue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)
Members of the 42nd Air Base Wing, wing staff agency wait to begin the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down-day at Maxwell Air Force Base, June 11, 2014. The SAPR down-day began with a briefing from Col. Mark Ramsey, 42nd ABW vice commander, on identifying the perpetrators of sexual assault, and is intended to help prevent sexual assault in the military by helping service members understand and learn how to combat the issue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)
by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
6/18/2014 - Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. -- The 42nd Air Base Wing held a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down-day June 11.
"We've got a problem: sexual assault. We all know it, we're all talking about it, we're concerned and our leaders are concerned," said Col. Mark Ramsey, 42nd ABW vice commander, at the start of the SAPR briefing for wing staff agencies. "That's why we're here talking about how to identify offenders."
The briefing was heavily focused on sexual assault statistics based on Department of Defense reports and independent research and information on how to identify perpetrators.
One of the DOD reports stated that in 2012, out of the 3,259 incidents in the Air Force, 790 were reported, of which 449 were unrestricted reports, also known as investigative reports.
"It may be difficult to accept that this is happening in our Air Force, but I wanted to be transparent with you," Ramsey said. "What I want to say to those 790 who reported is, 'Thank you. It wasn't easy to do.'"
The 2013 edition of the study showed 1,047 reports, which doesn't necessarily mean that more assaults are happening, but that more people feel comfortable and have faith in the Air Force justice and support systems to report the crime, said Ramsey.
The briefing then centered on the ways in which perpetrators act and how to identify them and how people can intervene in or stop a sexual assault.
"You have to know the threats and how to identify them," Ramsey said. "We're in the military; we have to know how to do this."
Ramsey emphasized the importance of being a wingman and stepping up at the first sign of a threat rather than assuming it's the victim's responsibility.
"If it's in your mind that the victim should have stopped this, take it out," Ramsey said.
"The perpetrator made a decision to do this. It didn't just pop into their mind."
Ramsey explained that perpetrators display specific behaviors and often go out with the intention of sexually assaulting someone. During the presentation, the Airmen in the audience viewed a re-enacted video of a rapist's confession, which was originally published as a commentary in a major national newspaper. The video also described typical behavior patterns of a perpetrator.
"You need to recognize these signs so you can see [the victim] as a wingman and intervene," said Ramsey, emphasizing the need to enforce a culture of zero tolerance in the workplace.
"My challenge to you is to understand the issue, talk openly, be involved, evaluate the culture and be accountable," Ramsey said. "If something's not right in your unit, be polite, professional and direct."
Following the briefing, Airmen broke out into small-group sessions at their work centers to further discuss the issue and to share ways in which they, as individuals, can make a difference.
"I was shocked by the statistics and the sheer number of incidents that go unreported, so this was pretty eye-opening," 2nd said Lt. James Park, 42nd ABW wing staff agency chaplain candidate. "I'm thinking of things we can do to keep these things from happening,"
As an important issue in the DOD, other base units, such as Air University, also held their SAPR down-day May 28.
"It's really important people understand what is included in sexual assault," said LaNessa Howard, Maxwell SAPR coordinator, of all base units holding SAPR down-days. "Just as important is focusing on not blaming victims and identifying offender dynamics."
Howard said that thanks to all the facilitators who volunteered to run individual unit SAPR down-day sessions, the event was a success in taking people away from the idea of blaming victims and placing the focus on perpetrators and on bystander intervention techniques.