WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office works year round to provide resources and support for Team Whiteman.
Although April is set aside as a month to highlight response efforts, this month’s SAPR observance is noticeably different than in previous years.
“Due to social distancing and measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, we have canceled our Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month events for April. We hope to reschedule most of them throughout the year,” said Anthony Axton, the 509th Bomb Wing SAPR coordinator. “Our response and support mechanisms have remained in place. We have been able to keep one individual in the SAPR office during duty hours and the 24/7 hotline, 660-687-7272, is still manned for response and to provide answers and assistance.”
Ensuring the effectiveness of sexual assault response remains a priority for the SAPR team, especially during times of uncertainty. Social distancing restrictions placed on service members and civilian dependents could lead to feelings of isolation and disconnectedness.
One way to increase effective sexual assault prevention is to make sure Airmen are calling the wingmen they may not see every day. Reaching out to colleagues, friends and family, to ask how they are doing, could be the outlet they need to get help.
“During this unique time of staying at home, assistance can be as simple as checking-in on friends or family,” said Capt. Casey Randall, Special Victims' Counsel. “According to Rainn.org, 8 out of 10 rapes are perpetuated by an individual the victim knows. What this potentially means during COVID-19 is that victims may be stuck at home for extended periods of time in a toxic relationship.”
Jennifer Calcote, the 131st Bomb Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, said being an active participant in one another’s lives can have a drastic impact in reassuring others that help is available. Being an active bystander is one of the most effective ways to prevent sexual assault.
“While we can’t know for sure when something is wrong, we can recognize warning signs that are more subtle. For example, changes in tone of voice, how a person responds to questions, and cues in words and speech can all be indicators that something is wrong,” Calcote said. “Checking in should be our most frequent intervention. It does not have to be confrontational and it does not have to assume something bad is happening or going to happen.”
Checking in with people frequently can normalize communication and provide an avenue for a victim to reach out for support. Team Whiteman victim advocates are available to assist in sexual assault response.
“Our volunteer victim advocates are individuals who truly care about and want to be part of the SAPR program,” Axton said. “They are thoroughly screened, trained and nationally credentialed to serve in that role. The Volunteer Victim Advocate program allows us to maintain a pool of caring advocates that can be matched one-on-one with victims who make a report to provide them additional support and advocacy.”
If you or someone you know would like more information on the SAPR resources available, please contact any of the following resources for more information.
Whiteman Air Force Base SAPR 24/7 Helpline: (660) 687-7272
Whiteman Air Force Base SAPR Website: www.whiteman.af.mil/SAPR/
Whiteman Air Force Base, Office of Special Victims’ Counsel: (660) 687-5738
To become a Victim Advocate, call: (660) 687-2324
The Department of Defense Safe Helpline: (877) 995-5247
The National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE (4613)