Sexual Assault Awareness Month

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Sexual assault quite often becomes the elephant in the room -- we all know it exists, but we don't like talking about it. I know hearing the same statistics over and over gets old, but if you take a second to absorb them, it can be quite sobering.

"Of female sexual assault victims, 73 percent were assaulted by someone they knew. Thirty-eight percent of women assaulted by a known offender were friends or acquaintances of the rapist, and 28 percent were intimate partners. Fewer than 39 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with males being the least likely to report a sexual assault," states the National Center for Victims of Crime Web site.

The important thing to realize is sexual assault is not just something that happens somewhere else. As a victim advocate here, I can attest to the fact it happens right here and more frequently than you may think.

This year's theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is "Hurts One, Affects All." What does that really mean?

Sexual Assault is not a crime that only affects the assaulted; the effects permeate the lives of their families, the workplace and their friends. The emotional trauma a sexual assault victim experiences often has a ripple effect through the community -- our community.

Over the years, we have seen a shift in focus for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training. Although some get frustrated with these changes, they come out of a sincere desire to protect the Air Force's most valuable asset -- you. Bystander Intervention training was implemented so we can all learn how to best prevent this crime from ever happening and to protect our community together.

I sincerely hope for the day I am no longer needed as a VA. We'll rely on you, the men and women of Spangdahlem, to help us until then.

Although nothing can erase unfortunate events that have already occurred, seeking the help of the sexual assault response coordinator and a victim advocate can diminish the adverse affects of a sexual assault.

In fact, according to the NCVC Web site, "recent research has found that rape survivors who had the assistance of an advocate were significantly more likely to have police reports taken and reported that they experienced less distress after their contact with the legal system."

Victim advocates provide many services, but mainly they do one simple thing - provide support to someone who needs it most by simply listening. It is important for a victim to know someone is on his or her side.

If you are wondering what you can do to help, join us for two events to raise awareness of sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office will host a Bowl-A-Thon at the bowling alleynoon to 4 p.m. April 15. There will also be two Sexual Assault Awareness 5K runs at the Skelton Memorial Fitness Center at noon and 4 p.m. April 20.

In addition to showing those affected by this crime we support them, there will be victim advocates available to answer questions. Whether you are interested in becoming an advocate yourself or just want to get some advice, feel free to talk to any of us. Conversations with victim advocates in regards to sexual assaults are confidential. We want to help, please let us.

(Information from the National Center for Victims of Crime Web site, http://www.ncvc.org/, was used in this article.)