To combat the prevalence of sexual assault within ranks of our military, officials have developed intensive training programs to raise awareness and give service members the knowledge and resources to combat this issue. However much of this kind of training—in the military and elsewhere—focuses on prohibiting certain actions, especially for females. In response, Air Force officials have now announced a pivot in its sexual assault prevention campaign that will shift the focus from what behavior should be avoided, to what behavior should be encouraged.
As Air Force Times reports, the news comes from General Gina Grosso, who recently led the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office before being promoted to the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. "We know what we need to do in the future is have positive training," she told the paper. "We're going into healthy relationship training and healthy sexuality training that we are modeling off evidence-based programs that have worked, which are very few."
According to Grosso, the shift is inspired by sexual assault statistics. According to research, only a fraction of sexual assaults are the result or predatory behavior. "When you look at the risk factors in particular for perpetration, that [the proactive training] is the best way to prevent this crime," added Grosso. "It's completely gender-neutral, and it is completely focused on the person that commits the crime, not the person that suffers from the crime."
SHIFTING THE ASSUMED ACCOUNTABILITY OF SEXUAL ASSAULTS
According to some, there has been a great need for a shift in the way that institutions, the Air Force included, treat sexual assault prevention. Earlier this year, an anonymous female airman came forward with the previous training's shortcomings: "Women don't need their own set of rules... When I can only deploy with another woman 'buddy' you are telling me and the people around me that I can't take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don't make me equal, you make me hated."
General Grosso, however, does not believe those sentiments have ever been a priority in the Air Force's sexual assault training. "If you look at our training, in no way have we ever said that airmen who experience this trauma are weak," Grosso says. "In fact, our training really emphasizes that the sole responsibility for this crime rests with the perpetrator and the victim is never at fault."
Grosso also reiterated that the Air Force has made great strides in providing sexual assault victims the support they need, particularly due to sexual assault response coordinators (SARCs). "We've seen increased reporting because we have these very competent people that have earned the trust of these airmen that are in great distress."
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