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Bystander intervention vital in preventing sexual assault

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS -- Airmen who attended the annually-required Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training this year received a refresher on the basic tenets of what sexual assault is, how to identify it, and how to properly report incidents. To enhance the annual training, the Air Force is developing a bystander intervention training program. The new training, geared for small group, interactive skills development, helps train Airmen to stop sexual assaults before they occur.

"This training is designed to get prevention at the forefront of our SAPR programs," said Maj. Gen. K.C. McClain, Air Force Personnel Center commander and former Commander, Department of Defense Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

Annual SAPR training for Air Force members also covers the entire cycle of reporting, response, and accountability, to include the role of installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinators. Since the SAPR program launched in 2005, annual training has continued as in-person, briefing style delivery but is scheduled for transition to computer-based training in FY09 with realistic fact presentation and scenario activities.

"The bystander intervention training the Air Force is developing will help educate and provide Airmen the right skills to help intervene in potential assaults," said Lawna Swellander, the chief of the SAPR operations here. "Intervening asks a lot of a person, and until you know what to look for and how to help, you're less likely to step into an uncomfortable situation--this training will help everyone feel more prepared to do so and break the cycle of sexual assault."

"Bystander intervention programs have been used successfully in many college campuses and have been credited with greatly reducing the number of sexual assaults of the target age group of 18 to 24," Ms. Swellander added.

Focus groups for pilot testing of the Air Force's bystander intervention training modules are scheduled for Fall 2008 to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the training design. "We're working hard to develop worthwhile and usable training for all Air Force members, military and civilian alike," Ms. Swellander said.

AFPC SAPR operations here ensures all SAPR-related training incorporates Department of Defense policy by standardizing the training Air Force-wide.

"When we build the training briefs, we ensure the key messages from DoD and the Air Force are part of the process," said Ms. Swellander. "We incorporate the expertise of social workers on our staff to help develop our curriculum, both for the Air Force populace as a whole, as well as for our team of SARCs and victim advocates." The Air Force has also acquired extensive advice and consultation from nationally recognized experts in sexual assault prevention.

Overall, AFPC SAPR operations oversees the development, implementation, and management of the SAPR program to support major command and installation level SARCs in executing established policies. From developing the training and workshops for new SARCs and victim advocates to SARC deployment preparation and sourcing issues, Ms. Swellander and her staff ensure standardized execution of DoD policy throughout all Air Force SAPR programs. "We ensure the forward motion of sexual assault prevention and response programs keeps rolling with consistency and continuity," she said.

For more information on sexual assault prevention, response or reporting procedures, or to becoming a victim advocate, contact your installation SARC. Information is also available on the DoD SAPR Web site, http://www.sapr.mil/.