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Commentary: You can make a difference

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What is one of the most powerful predictors of whether a sexual assault will be completed or not? You are!

When a woman is attacked by a single individual, you, as a prosocial bystander, can play a vital role in determining whether a rape will be completed or not. The presence of a bystander makes a completed rape 44 percent less likely. We need to realize that sexual assault is everyone's issue. It's not just something that women need to worry about, that drinkers need to consider, or that those ages 18-22 should concern themselves with -- it's everyone's issue! As a prosocial bystander, you can play a vital role in significantly reducing the prevalence of this crime. But how and when can you get involved?

Recognizing there is a problem warranting attention is the first step in making a difference. No one is going to wave a flag and announce they intend to commit a sexual assault. What you might see instead is a very intoxicated female being pulled along by an overly-interested male. You might see someone who's already had enough to drink being encouraged to take another shot from someone who isn't looking out for their best interests. These are just some of the warning signs you might encounter. Each of these situations, and many others, are opportunities for us to intervene and possibly stop an assault from occurring.

Everyone may not have the same comfort level for intervening, but I propose there's still a way for everyone to step in. Some might be ready to directly address one of the parties involved. They might simply say to the aggressor, "Hey, maybe you should back off. She looks pretty drunk." Others may not want to address the aggressor, but may be willing to take the potential victim aside. You might choose to pretend you know him/her. This gives you the opportunity to remove them from the situation to check on them.

Other options for those who are not comfortable confronting either party would be to alert the waiter, bartender, bouncer, etc. You can let one of these people know that you are concerned about a particular situation. You might ask if you could have their assistance watching to ensure everything is alright. There are many ways to be a prosocial bystander. It's less important what you choose to do; it's far more important to choose to do something. And if we might feel shy about getting involved, just think about if the potential victim was your loved one. Wouldn't you want someone to step in?

In the event an assault does occur -- call the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator first. We can go over your reporting options with you. If you have not told your supervisor, your first sergeant, or anyone else in your chain of command, you might be able to file a restricted report. This means you can get medical care and counseling if you're interested without OSI investigation or command notification. You also have the option of getting a victim advocate assigned if you'd like.

The other reporting option is an unrestricted report. This means you are ready to go forward with an OSI investigation and command notification. If you tell your first sergeant, supervisor, anyone in your chain of command, or any member of security forces, an unrestricted report might be your only option. You may also get a victim advocate if you file an unrestricted report.

We're here to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You only have to remember one phone number -- 720-847-7272. We're always available to help you sort through your options.
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