I’m not gonna lie…
I’m pretty prideful of my essays. I mean, its clearly evident that I enjoy writing, hence why I’m a blogger. It also depresses me when I birth such a beautiful essay, only for it to be cast aside as if it’s now meaningless. SO, I thought that they might be of use for someone who’s also writing essays and might need some help. Feel free to comment below if you also need help on writing essays!
Anyway, for the essay below, the general basis was to choose a topic and assert your point of view. I chose the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program (SAPR). Initially, I was obliterated by my classmates who felt like I was only out to defame the program when in reality, I only assert for a stronger prevention component. Overall, I got an A on the assignment and showed up all the “haters” in my class (LOL). There are some things I edited out for obvious purposes.
On the Department of Defense’s official Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office website, their mission statement reads,
The Department of Defense (DoD) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) promotes military readiness by eliminating sexual assault and ensuring excellence in victim advocacy and prevention efforts through the execution of SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) policy, planning, and oversight across the DoD Community. (“Mission and History”, SAPR,mil)
Since its implementation in October 2005, the military’s SAPR program has seen many changes, primarily to the response of a potential sexual assault incident. Even though the military has strengthened its victims support through this program and encouraging more victims to speak up, they continue to face a problem with sexual assault happening amongst its ranks. Aside for caring for sexual assault victims, what has the SAPR program done for actual “prevention”? By ensuring the program focuses equally on prevention and response for victims in need, this can further reduce the incidences of sexual assault.
In the first steps to the program’s creation, sexual assault victims were given limited options of recovery. These options were: confiding in a chaplain; report to a Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) for a sexual assault examination; seek medical treatment & community services from civilian resources; or say & do nothing. (“Air Force Medical Services,” AFMS.ADLS.af.mil) It wasn’t until a few years after the program’s birth that victims were given two choices of reporting their traumatic experience – restricted and unrestricted reporting. Restricted reporting allows the victim to seek medical help and counseling without the assistance of the law enforcement; whereas unrestricted reporting does involve law enforcement with a possible persecution of the assailant. While both avenues have their advantages and disadvantages, victims are always given the choice in the matter, provided they did not immediately report the offense to law enforcement or confide in anyone in their chain of command (i.e. supervisors or commanders). (“Air Force Medical Services”)
The initial process in deciding on which option would be best for victims to pursue can be understandably overwhelming to victims. Thus, the military has also created the Victim’s Advocacy Program within the SAPR program. This role assists the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) by remaining with the victim throughout the entire process and coordinating with other organizations and agencies about victim care matters. (“Air Force Medical Services”) Not only does the Victim’s Advocacy Program provide victims with someone that will remain by their side during this lengthy process, this program has allowed former victims time to heal through action. Members like Staff Sergeant Brittany Johnson and Technical Sergeant Kathleen Thorburn have been active members of this program to heal their past wounds from sexual assault, and to also assist victims in getting into a better and healthier place. (Murphy, Paden). Creating this program has proved to serve dual purposes for current and former victims, and as Sergeant Thorburn states,
“…it’s important to teach Airmen about […] being good wingmen, but it’s just as important, if not more so, to talk to them about sexual assault and respecting other people.” (Paden)
As much as we see progress in the SAPR program, the military is still plagued by sexual assault cases. For example, in 2012, the Air Force was placed in the public limelight when a young female trainee came forward with sexual assault accusations against her former military training instructor (MTI), Staff Sergeant Luis Walker, who was later charged with 28 specifications of misconduct. (Lawrence, Christenson) This launched an immediate command-directed investigation on the overall Basic Military Training (BMT) program, resulting in 46 recommended changes. Meanwhile, outside of the BMT environment, then-Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Larry Spencer, was influenced to create the “Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Blog” to maintain communication among the operational Air Force. This blog was used as a means for Airmen to present suggestions, ideas, or concerns that may help the SAPR program. (Spencer) Among the many suggestions presented before him, General Spencer highlights focused training at all levels (from first-line supervision to base commanders), realistic scenarios and small group discussions for training effectiveness. (Spencer) As a result, the operational Air Force was given more training and briefings on the subject, including the creation of “Airmen’s Week,” a five-day seminar for newly-graduated Basic Training Airmen (Davis); Airmen’s Week was also one of the 46 recommended changes for BMT.
Were Airmen receptive of these changes? A former Air Force MTI who was also stationed at Lackland Air Force Base during the 2012 BMT scandal, mentioned that it truly meant he and other MTIs were subjected to “40+ briefings/trainings about sexual assault/harassment.” He also states that these trainings were
not informative, but more or less an insanely long list of what we can and [cannot] do… Trainees are also told this day one of BMT, which set the precedent of us [MTIs] looking evil and as if our intent [was to be] sex-crazed creatures.
The overall intent of these trainings and briefings were meant to make operational Airmen aware of what could be considered sexual assault. However, as this MTI pointed out, the intentions were misinterpreted and instead used somewhat as a weapon against those that meant well.
Regarding “Airmen’s Week,” this capstone event focuses on topic discussions, which include ethical decision-making, wingmanship, resiliency, respect and sexual assault prevention and response. (Davis) This event was meant to teach new Airmen about a variety of issues they’ll likely encounter during their time in the Air Force and to also show what’s expected of them. (Spencer) An Airman who graduated BMT in 2013, stated that sexual assault prevention “wasn’t emphasized that much, besides the ‘What Now, Airmen?’ video presentations. These video presentations provide Airmen a variety of scenarios they may encounter during the military career. She also reported that this forum was redundant regarding the effectiveness of sexual assault prevention but did state that it provided her with the resources and knowledge to intervene in these types of situations.
Again, General Spencer mentioned that Airmen were requesting “realistic training with realistic scenarios and small group discussions [in order] for the training to be effective.” (Spencer) Also, Kevin Adelson, “Airmen’s Week” program manager, stated
“if we put PowerPoint in front of these young women and men, we have failed them and we’re going to lose them.” (Davis)
It appears as though top leadership may not be understanding what Airmen are asking for in terms of prevention training and “realistic scenarios.” Airmen are not asking for video presentations or additional training or briefings on scheduled training days. Instead, Airmen are asking for real-life situations that may occur in their everyday lives. In terms of realistic scenarios, Airmen might be able to feel empowered to stop a potential sexual assault event from occurring if they were able to role-play or act out a realistic situation. If the SAPR program emphasized more on small group discussions and realistic training, such as the one mentioned above, the Air Force may see sexual assault incidents decrease even further than what it is now. Many people believe that, with the training they’re currently receiving, they’ll be able to prevent an incident from occur, but how can one be so sure? Through real-life situations, or even simulating a potential threat, it would ensure Airmen would be able to pick up on the signs and intervene. This may also empower Airmen to speak up as a wingman instead of feeling uncomfortable and refrain from action.
If the military’s intent for the SAPR program is to prevent and respond to sexual assaults, there may need to be a realignment for its focus to accommodate both missions. As noted in this essay, the program has come a long way with assisting its victims but has done so little in preventing the crime from occurring. In fact, but merely replacing the old training with longer and multiple briefings over the same subject, this can be taken as the DoD checking off this subject in a list of requirements. Like a disease, we can only do so much in treating it and if we wish to rid our ranks of sexual assault, we must also focus on prevention.
Work Cited –
“Air Force Medical Services (AFMS) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) FirstResponder for Healthcare Personnel,” Advanced Distributed Learning Service (MedLearn), 2 Mar 2013, https://afms.adls.af.milstrCourseID=C07165&StrCredit=Credit&strMode=Normal.
Christenson, Sig. “Staff Sgt. Walker found guilty on all charges of sexual misconduct,” My SanAntonio, 21 Jul 2012, https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/military/article/Staff-Sgt-Walker-found-guilty-on-all-charges-of-3723197.php
Davis, Kristin. “400 recruits arrive for revamped basic training,” Air Force Times, 26 Jan 2015, https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2015/01/26/400-recruits-arrive-for-Revamped-basic-training.
“Mission & History.” Department of Defense: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, http://www.sapr.mil/index.php/about/mission-and-history.
Murphy, Michael. “Strength in recovery: victim becomes advocate,” AF.mil, 27 Apr 2018,https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1505424/strength-in-recovery-victim-becomes-advocate.
Paden, Terri. “AF sexual assault prevention: moving in the right direction,” AF.mil, 8 Apr 2015, https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/583814/af-sexual-assault-prevention-moving-in-the-right-direction.
Spencer, Larry. “Feedback on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Blog,” AF.mil, 23 Sep 2013, http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/467177/feedback-on-sexual-assault-Prevention-and-response-blog.