Eielson kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April marks the observance of the 10th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to highlight the issue of sexual assault throughout the service and the need for every Airman to combat it. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office has different promotional events planned to increase sexual assault awareness, including self-defense classes and the annual SAPR dodge ball tournament at the Baker Field House. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/31/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- April marks the observance of the 10th annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to highlight the issue of sexual assault throughout the service and the need for every Airman to combat it.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office has different promotional events planned throughout the month to increase sexual assault awareness, including hosting self-defense classes and the annual SAPR dodge ball tournament at the Baker Field House.
"The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to increase education regarding sexual assault, resources available both on base and in the local community, and to encourage Airmen to hold each other accountable," said 1st Lt. Edwardlarry Ramirez, 354th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator. "By doing this, we want Airmen to be aware of and work to prevent sexual assault both in the workplace and during their off-duty activities."
In a recent message to Pacific Air Forces Airmen, Gen. Herbert Carlisle, PACAF commander, prompted Airmen to observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month during April with the theme, "Live Our Values: Step Up and Stop Sexual Assault."
"While the Air Force and PACAF have made strides toward reducing sexual assaults and increasing reporting by victims, sexual assault within our force remains a significant problem," said Carlisle. "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."
Icemen need to be aware that reported rape is more common in Alaska than any other state, according to 2012 FBI crime estimates.
To assist a victim post-attack, different agencies are available around base to help anyone in every aspect of the recovery process.
"Eielson has a very robust network of services for sexual assault victims; whether you're looking for spiritual, mental, medical or legal advice, we have it all," said Ramirez. "If for some reason it's not available or you're not comfortable with going to an on-base agency, we have the same exact resources downtown and we have no problem getting anyone to those resources when and how they need it, restricted or unrestricted."
Another option for sexual assault victims is to talk to a victim advocate, who is specifically trained in dealing with victims and their healing process.
"The purpose of victim advocates is to support sexual assault victims so that they always have someone to take care of them, explain reporting options, get them to various helping agencies and assist all the way from initial report, through disposition of a trial and even beyond if people require assistance," said Ramirez. "All of our victim advocates go through a 40-hour basic advocacy course, after that we pursue their national credentials through the National Organization of Victim Advocates."
A victim advocacy course held in February taught 15 participants from different units how to help victims, as well as visit the different agencies around base and downtown Fairbanks which deal with every aspect of the assault from the victims' initial attack to recovery.
"I became a victim advocate to help myself as well as others," said Tech. Sgt. Amy Oberfoell, 354th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy flight chief. "Victim advocates help victims heal by providing a support system; sometimes people do not have anyone to talk to and victim advocates are a resource that provides confidentiality."
Eielson currently has 10 nationally certified victim advocates. To report a sexual assault or for information on becoming an advocate, contact the victim advocate hotline at 907-978-9853 or the SARC at 377-7272.