Barksdale, community take stand during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
BARKSDALE AFB (KSLA) - Barksdale Air Force Base officials and airmen, as well as community leaders gathered on base Friday, April 2, for a joint proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The event was put on by SAPR, or Sexual Assault and Prevention Response program on Barksdale Air Force Base.
“The goal of SAPR is to raise public awareness of sexual assault and educate communities on how to prevent sexual violence,” Keonna James, a victim advocate for SAPR on Barksdale, said. “SAPR calls attention to the fact that sexual harassment, assault and abuse is widespread and impacts every person in this community. Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment harm our community. Statistics show every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will become the victim of attempted sexual assault or sexual assault in their lifetime. Nearly 19,000 military members will experience unwanted sexual contact every year. On campus, 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”
The Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military shows the rates of sexual assault and harassment reports in the military have increased since last year.
The report states there were 7,825 sexual assault reports involving service members as victims or subjects, a 3% increase compared to 2018. The increase in reports can’t be characterized as an increase in assaults, according to the Pentagon, because a separate survey on prevalence is only conducted every other year.
Barksdale states “There is no doubt, question, uncertainty or room for sexual assault in the Air Force, only zero tolerance.” The Barksdale Air Force Base and the 2nd Bomb Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team are committed to taking strides every day to educate and promote SAPR throughout the installation.
“The program is where victims can come if they have been sexually assaulted and they can make a report,” said Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for SAPR Misty Talley. “There are a couple of different types of reports they can make. The main purpose is to support the victims through their recovery. Recovery can look different for each individual victim, but we are here to empower them in their recovery and their decisions. The decisions are theirs to make, not ours.”
To highlight a month of awareness, SAPR and Barksdale held a proclamation ceremony and a 5K color run.
“This morning we are kicking off our Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a proclamation signing. Sexual assault is not just something that happens on Barksdale. It happens in the community so we have tremendous support from our community partners. We have some college and universities here, we have Project Celebration, the Bossier City mayor is here, Col. Dmytryszyn and the 307th are here. We are all coming together and taking a stand against this, saying sexual assault is not ok and it takes a community to help with this.”
2nd Bomb Wing Commander Col. Mark Dmytryszyn, Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker, 307th Bomb Wing Commander Col. Steven Kirkpatrick, Bossier Parish Community College Vice Chancellor Karen Recchia, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univeristy Associate Campus Director Jennifer Watson, Vice Chancellor of External Affairs and Chief of Staff at LSU Health Shreveport Dr. Markey Pierre, Chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport Larry Clark, and Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Coordinator at Project Celebration, Inc. Angela Henderson all attended the event alongside airmen and community members.
“We come together united against something that is counter to our collective values,” Col. Dmytryszyn said. “And something that I believe we all find as a detraction to dignity, trust and respect. I am humbled today to close ranks with our community partners today to show unity with wearing our denim and signing this proclamation. We stand together both inside and outside the fence line to come against the disrespectful and injurious acts and help those who have been hurt or harmed by assaults in the past and protect those from being victims of sexual assault in the future. I look to my fellow leaders and I say thank you for your commitment to this issue. We collectively stand together to make a safer, stronger and more welcoming Shreveport, Bossier and Barksdale community.”
Although she leads the SAPR program, Talley says taking a stand against an issue like this takes a team effort.
“I couldn’t do this by myself,” Talley said. “I have a phenomenal team. Major Mindy Geiger is the Deputy SARC, Keonna James is our victim advocate and all of our volunteer victim advocates that we have, the support of Col. Dmytryszyn, the Wing, my leadership. It’s truly Barksdale that has picked this program up and made it what it is today.”
SAPR has several more events relating to Sexual Assault Awareness Month planned.
“There are tons of things going on,” Talley said. “As soon as we are finished with the proclamation signing we will be doing a 5k color run. Today everyone has been authorized to wear denim in support of National Denim Day. Because of things going on the 28th, but we will be posting everyone wearing denim today to social media. We have a safe space small group discussion that we will be hosting here at Hoban Hall for people to come and talk about things. They can wear civilian clothes so no one has to worry about rank. We also have paint with a teal twist and we will close the month with a ‘take back the night’ event at the gym along with a scavenger hunt.”
Talley says creating a safe space for victims and community support lead to more men and women coming forward to file reports.
“We would love for everyone to make what is called an unrestricted report so we can do investigations and hold people accountable,” Talley said. “It can be life changing. We just want to make sure there is support and resources to talk to someone whether that is on base or off base. We couldn’t do this without the support of the community.”
When you first enter Barksdale through the Main (west) Shreveport Gate, you will see a display of t-shirts decorated with stories of sexual assault, words of encouragement to and from victims and survivors of sexual assault.
“We are very proud of that display,” Talley said. “It’s to highlight that unfortunately sexual assault does happen. We are not going to hide that. Some of our victims, our victim advocates and volunteers painted and designed those t-shirts to be a visual representation that sexual assault does happen but that it is not ok to us and we want to put a stop to it. We want to give victims hope that they can overcome this, that there is help and resources out there and we are here for you.”
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