Academy reviewing results of sexual assault survey



by Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs


7/18/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Analysts across the Air Force Academy are reviewing the results of a survey conducted in the days following a stand-down to address sexual assault here June 24.

The analysts, who include experts from the Behavioral Science and Leadership Department, the Commandant of Cadets staff and the Plans and Programs, Requirements, Assessments and Analyses Directorate, hope to present their results at the next superintendent's call.

"Several units provided suggestions from their unit-level training" during the stand-down, said Col. Stella Renner, the vice commandant for culture and climate. "These suggestions will also be used to help (the Academy) improve its prevention efforts."

Survey respondents' suggestions ranged from involving faculty with character coaching to a complete revamping of how the Academy trains its freshmen, Renner said.

"We will analyze all of these inputs ... to continue refining and improving our prevention focus as we work together to end sexual assault and harassment," she said.

The Class of 2017 received initial Sexual Assault Prevention and Response briefings June 28, a day after inprocessing, Renner said.

"The Air Force Academy stands with the rest of the Air Force as we continue to fight sexual assault and harassment within our ranks," she added.

Approximately 20 percent of the Academy population responded to the survey. A large majority, 94 percent, indicated that they were already prepared to intervene or are better prepared to intervene in potentially harmful situations; 96 percent indicated they already had a good understanding or now have a better understanding of the relationship between climate and sexual assault.

"I believe Airmen are a key part of the solution to this," said Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, director of the Air Force SAPR office. "They understand the problem, and they know what needs to be done to help conquer it. Now we need them to share those innovative ideas with us and each other. We need our Airmen talking about this issue."

The June 24 stand-down included unit-level discussions on how to prevent sexual violence and create a climate that would prevent gender issues that could lead to sexual assault or harassment. Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould began the day-long event by addressing staff and cadets in Clune Arena.

"Let's look right here at what's going on in our back yard," Gould said. "Fifty-two reports of sexual assaults last year (within the Cadet Wing). ... The facts will tell us that there are probably four times that many assaults happening. These reports are a good thing, but we aren't doing enough to prevent these (assaults).

"We need everybody's help," he added. "We share this challenge, and we share the solutions."

Gould stressed the need for people to challenge any climate that might permit sexual harassment or assault.

"We've got to talk about this in the workplace on a regular basis. We've got to get the facts out," he said. "And it's ugly ... it's not fun, but we can't keep it a taboo subject. We've got to get it out in the open.

"Here's the bottom line: I need faculty members in the classroom to talk about this on a regular basis with cadets and amongst one another," he continued. "We need coaches to talk to their players when they come down here for athletics. We need ... everybody who comes into contact with our cadets to deal with these things. We can't put it to the side and pretend it's not happening. We've got to talk about it."

Chief Master Sgt. Steven Ludwig, the Academy's command chief, urged staff members to build respect and trust within their work and off-duty environments as well.

"You control the culture," Ludwig said. "The general and I can talk about it all day long, but if you don't embrace it inside your organizations -- that culture of respect, every day -- it won't change. You control it. You own it.

"You need to understand that respect is something you have to build inside your organizations," he added. "You have to find a way to make sure that culture continues to pervade through your organization every single day and every single moment, because that is what will make us special."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed all military services to stand down by June 30 in response to widely publicized cases about sexual violence in Air Force Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and media attention surrounding two general officers' decisions to set aside court-martial convictions for sexual assault.

SAMPLE SURVEY RESPONSES

Analysts have broken down some of the sample comments provided by survey participants into the categories of personal, unit and Academy-level action. Some of those comments include:

Personal Action
· "Continue to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment."
· "Continue to tell people that I am non-judgmental and it is not my decision to determine punishment or judge how the situation happened. My role is to make sure the victim is taken care of appropriately, gets the help that they need and cross my fingers that any punishment is fair and appropriate."
· "I will be a good wingman on and off the clock. Being a wingman does not stop when I go off base, we should always be watching out for each other."

Unit Action
· "... Get information out there about sexual assault and how to prevent it. Realizing how real it is can do a lot."
· "... Breed an atmosphere that respects one another. This starts at the top and works its way down. It's up to each person to step up when someone is being disrespectful."
· "Talk more freely and openly, get everything out on the table. This is the only true way to effect change. You need to alter people's perceptions, and to truly understand how others think you really need to listen to what they have to say."

Academy Action
· "Get back to the basics of what it is to be in the military ... treat students as military members. Continue to enforce standards. Continue to have open and honest feedback sessions with students and staff."
· "Shift the attitude and focus more on being brave when you are found in a situation in which you have the capability of preventing any type of sexual assault. Give the wingman actions to take and things to remember, such as 'What would you want your friend to do if you were the one being attacked.'"
· "I think a step in the right direction is owning every single sexual assault we have. Only by staring the ugly truth in the face can we truly confront the issue and then move forward to solve it."