Events focus on harm caused by sexual assault

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

4/1/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- When sexual assault occurs, the pain "Hurts One, Affects All."

"Every time a military member or civilian is affected, it impacts the whole mission," said LaNessa Howard, Maxwell's sexual assault response coordinator. She and her staff have organized events throughout April to raise awareness of sexual assault and increase respect using the theme, "Hurts One, Affects All."

One of Ms. Howard's goals this month is to discredit myths regarding sexual assault.

"We want people to stop blaming the victim," she said. "That discourages people from coming forward (and reporting the crime)."

She hopes these programs make an impact on the participants and teach that staying silent is no longer an option.

"Truly preventing sexual assault means sending clear messages to potential perpetrators that it will not be tolerated, downplayed or joked about and that we as a community will react decisively if it does happen," she said. "It means talking about sexual assault and teaching everyone that sexual assault is never okay, and informing ourselves about the issues and learning what we can do."

This is the third year the sexual assault prevention and response program has hosted a bowl-a-thon.

"We like to do things that people remember," she said.

She hopes participants will connect the action of rolling the ball and knocking over the pins with the concept of speaking up against assault. Just as the bowlers feel positive when they get a strike, they will feel positive when they help strike out sexual assault.

The theme for the talent expo and poetry slam is "It's All about Respect," and acts must include a theme of respect, healing or surviving. "Every talent, piece of music is about respect," Ms. Howard said. The cost is $5. To register to perform or attend, call 953-5558/7116.

Maxwell senior leadership, the Alabama attorney general and River Region mayors will sign a proclamation declaring April sexual assault awareness month at 4:30 p.m. April 14 at the state capitol. Take Back the Night events will follow.

"People will speak out on behalf of victims, and many survivors speak out and talk about how they got their power back," Ms. Howard said. There will be live music, entertainment and free food.

Members of the Maxwell and Gunter communities can learn about assertiveness and self-defense April 29. These workshops are designed to teach women how to be safer, reducing the risk of assault.

"Unfortunately, sexual violence still happens in our community, and as long as our prevention work is unfinished, certain precautions and restrictions can help keep us safer," Ms. Howard said.

In a report released by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy, sexual assault is the most underreported crime in America. Because of this, they contracted a survey throughout the Air Force, finding that in the 12 months prior to the survey, 2,143 (3.4 percent) women and 1,355 (0.5 percent) men were sexually assaulted, with the majority of female victims reporting that their assailant was a fellow Airman.

"America's Airmen deserve nothing less than our full devotion to eradicating the threatening behavior to their well being... This crime threatens our people and for that reason alone it is intolerable and incompatible with who and what we are," General Schwartz said.