Sexual Assault Prevention Town Hall at Osan
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Team Osan opened the doors of the Enlisted Club ballroom Thursday, but not for hosting a meal or providing evening entertainment. Instead denizens of Osan Air Base were given the chance to voice their problems and share their ideas on making a change in culture, not just at Osan, but Air Force wide.
At the Sexual Assault Prevention town hall Jan. 8, 2014, the 51st Fighter Wing Commander and Command Chief hosted an open forum to get first-person input from audience members. The feedback is intended to assist the 51st FW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator's, who are travelling to Washington D.C. next week for a week-long sexual assault prevention summit.
The town hall followed headquarters Air Force's release of information stating the force has made strides in combating sexual assault, with 800 fewer active-duty Airmen experiencing unwanted sexual contact and 500 more Airmen reporting the crime in fiscal year 2014 as compared to 2012.
Maj. Gen. Gina Grosso, director of Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, has said that the priority of a strong SAPR system has been vital to the results of fewer sexual assault incidents and more victims reporting the crime. Going forward, prevention will be the key to eliminating sexual assault from the ranks.
Col. Brook Leonard, 51st FW commander, said at the town hall that prevention has to be achieved by respect, at all levels of the scale.
"Preventing sexual assault means more than just taking care of yourself," said Leonard. "It means having respect for yourself and others, fostering a culture that's professional and valuing others as much as we value ourselves."
Attendees at the open forum were able to voice their concerns, either in person or through social media. The scheduled-for 60 minutes meeting lasted more than 90, giving the wing SARC a lot of first-hand information to take with them to Washington, and by using social media they were able to staff more than 30 questions the team was unable to address during the event.
Questions and comments at the forum ranged from topics of gender stereotyping, victim blaming, alcohol consumption, "bro culture", bystander intervention, profiling, and perceptions about false reports.
Because the event was an open-forum, a wide range of opinions and ideas surfaced, something the Command Chief encouraged.
"This is all very important feedback," said Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Greene at the event. "We all need to have an entire conversation about what's right and wrong."
Dialogue is the best way to build a culture of respect, said Leonard.
"This is an issue that you all know we'll continue to work through and do the best we can to create an environment where disrespect isn't tolerated," said Leonard. "What you're doing here today, raising your hands, voicing your ideas, that's what we need."
The goal of the forthcoming sexual assault prevention summit in Washington will be to make new prevention tools with designed training created to address the issue of sexual assault prevention head on, said Grosso in a previous report. The training will focus on communication and victim empathy.
"This needs to happen at all levels - from the peer group, to the first-line supervisors, with commanders taking the lead," she said.
And prevention isn't just a futuristic ideal, but an attainable goal.
"I believe we can absolutely create an Air Force free from sexual assault because there is no important task for the nation that Airmen cannot achieve," said Grosso.