Sexual assault: It can happen to you

  • Published
  • By Capt. Marie Williams
  • Andersen Air Force Base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
No one is immune to sexual assault. Men, women, young, old, attractive, unattractive, single, married, everyone is at risk of being sexually assaulted. It can happen to you even if you do everything right. But there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. When you think of the 36th Wing motto "I Can Save My Own Life" it should remind you of the things you can do to reduce your risk of being sexual assaulted.

1. Avoid excess use of alcohol. In the Air Force, most sexual assaults involve alcohol. So the most important thing you can do is drink in moderation. When you drink to the point where you cannot take care of yourself, you have lost a considerable amount of control and can be taken advantage of more easily.

2. Have a wingman. Choose your wingman carefully. This should be someone responsible and someone you trust. In addition to that, socialize with people who share your values.

3. Communicate clearly. Make it clear what you will and will not do. Don't send mixed signals. Yes means yes and no means no. Make sure your actions match your words. But if things are moving too fast, the person's making you uncomfortable, or you've just simply changed your mind, at no point is it ever too late to say NO. Say it firmly and repeat it louder if you need to.

4. Be aware of your surroundings. Know who and what are around you at all times. Being cautious and alert can only be to your benefit.

5. Trust your instincts. If you find yourself in a situation or place that makes you uneasy, leave or change it immediately.

6. Be assertive. If you feel threatened, protest loudly, yell, "Stop! This is rape!" Don't be afraid to make a scene. Reacting in anger rather than fear may throw the perpetrator off.

7. Avoid secluded places. Date rape is much more common than stranger rape so in the early stages of a relationship, meet in public places and suggest group dates. Never leave a bar or party with someone you have just met.

8. Take self-defense classes. Rapists often look for someone who appears vulnerable. Taking self-defense classes will give you greater self-confidence.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not sexual passion. It is meant to degrade, humiliate and control. The attacker can be a stranger or someone known and trusted. It can happen to anyone, at any time, at any place. The trauma of being assaulted is a shock from which many victims never fully recover. It affects a person's relationships, health, job performance and more. But help is available.

If you are sexual assaulted, know that it was not your fault. No matter what you did or didn't do, that still didn't give anyone the right to take advantage of you. Call the Andersen AFB 24hr Sexual Assault Help Line, 366-SARC. We're here to help. SARCs are not mandatory reporters, which means we are not required to disclose a sexual assault to law enforcement or the chain of command even if it involves collateral misconduct.

Remember that you are important. Your family and friends love you, your unit needs you and your nation is depending on you.