Sexual assault: Prevention is key

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ted Rieth
  • 39th Air Base Wing sexual assault response coordinator
It's often been heard, "Air Force training in sexual assault prevention is overdone."

We get it.

However, if sexual assault prevention training is taught too much, why do we still have to respond to sexual assaults? Is it because we must continually try to change assaulters?
The fact is everyone has the ability to avoid the mistake of assaulting someone, so we need to motivate and activate them to make prevention a reality.

Prevention is the key. Understanding sexual assault, recognizing the behaviors leading up to sexual assault and taking action is prevention.

According to Dr. David Lisak, a University of Massachusetts professor of psychology, less than 5 percent of the male population fit the category of serial rapist while the FBI has found that less than 1 percent of the female population meet this description. We can concentrate on non-offenders and teach them to understand what sexual assault is and aid them in exercising the kinds of thinking and behaviors that facilitate it. Then we can train them on how to recognize when behavior may create a dangerous situation and awareness of verbal cues that may predict violent behavior. We can train them to read conditions that make sexual assault more likely to occur. Finally, we can coach them in ways to intervene with potential perpetrators, and possibly defuse a situation or even prevent a sexual assault from occurring.

Another part of the solution is to continue efforts to teach everyone how to keep from becoming a target of sexual assault. No one asks for, wants or deserves to be the victim of a sexual assault. Victims are not at fault. No matter what a person wears, whether or not they have been drinking or where they decide to party does not condone an assault. Because the world is not always a safe place, the potential victim does have some responsibility to be an effective thinker to keep them from becoming a victim. Men and women must risk assess situations, places, atmospheres and people. They must determine their vulnerability, resources and exit strategy if they are really to be responsible and safe.

So, how can sexual assault prevention really work? We can activate more than 95 percent of men who are not rapists or sexual assaulters and the 100 percent of women who can assess and manage their risk, and do a reasonably good job in significantly reducing sexual assault incidents.

If you've been a victim of sexual assault or would like more information, please contact the Capt. Ted Rieth, the sexual assault response coordinator, at 676-SARC (7272).