Kadena members attend 1st Sexual Assault Prevention Summit
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Two Team Kadena members attended the first Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention Summit held Jan. 12-17 at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
Approximately 150 other Air Force representatives from bases around the globe attended the five-day summit to learn about and share their best ideas on how to take a stand against sexual assault.
"I think the conference is an important step as we look to permanently shift the Air Force culture to one which embraces and emphasizes persistent focus at all times on dignity, respect and inclusiveness for all of our Airmen," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "By the end of the week, we will all have a better understanding of sexual assault prevention and with your help, we can look at ways to operationalize prevention policy and tactics."
Participants consisted of active-duty, guard and reserve airmen and civilian employees who were joined by top Air Force officials including, Maj. Gen. Gina Grosso, Office of Sexual Assault Preventions and Response director, Gen. Larry O. Spencer, Air Force vice chief of staff, and many other speakers.
The first-of-its-kind event was conducted in civilian attire to encourage open dialogue regardless of rank. The audience participated in discussions that included healthy sexuality behavior, masculinity, understanding the role of alcohol and more.
"The SAPR Summit was very informative," said Michael Knuth, 18th Communications Squadron unit program coordinator, who attended the summit. "It was just too bad that everyone could not attend. It changed a lot of misconceptions I had about sexual assault. Our main topic of discussion was prevention and the first thing that comes to our minds is, 'how do we protect the potential victim?'"
Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. In order to deny offenders an opportunity to strike in the first place, it requires a community that is actively looking out for indications of danger to protect one another.
As the week progressed, Airmen and civilian counterparts became more open to sharing their unique perspectives and experiences on sexual assault prevention, said Knuth.
"It was a subject that seemed to be taboo and not easily talked about," said Knuth. "I think I was very lucky to attend the summit. With open communication, it seemed every moment provided an 'ah-ha' opportunity. I have learned a lot, become more aware and it has encouraged me to want to learn more."
Audience members left the summit empowered with a broader body of knowledge about stopping sexual assault. Knuth has already shared what he learned with the Kadena Air Base SAPR team, helping them to improve their prevention strategy. However, even with new insights taken from the summit, the local Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator office can't solve the problem alone.
"There are people out there who have great ideas of how we can reach out to everybody on base and come up with ways to prevent sexual assault," said Capt. Elizabeth Belleau, 18th Wing SARC, "We can sit here all day and think about what we think would work, but until we reach out and hear what others have to say, that's where we are going to find what really works."
Talking about sexual assault is not unusual, it is necessary. Through speaking up and intervening at the very first indicators of sexual harassment and aggression, sexual assault can be deterred before the offender has the opportunity to cause harm. The war on sexual assault applies to all Airmen and it is won through awareness, enabling the professional development of warriors and support for the community they protect.
For more information about the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention program, call the SAPR office at 634-7272 or visit the SAPR website at www.kadena.af.mil/units/sexualassaultpreventionandresponse.