Sexual Assault Awareness Month - Sexual Assault Prevention: The Bystander's role

  • Published
  • By 48th Fighter Wing
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
A sexual assault has consequences for the victim and the unit that are experienced long after the incident.

In some cases, sexual assault can be avoided when Air Force Members apply the Wingman concept to each other and get involved when a fellow Air Force Member is at risk.

A bystander is someone in a crowd who sees a potentially dangerous situation and does nothing. A bystander does not protect the values of safety, trust, and honor that are central to our community.

Researchers conducted an experiment in which a student pretended to have a seizure. The experimenters recorded how often others stopped to help. When only one bystander was watching the scene, the student was helped

Eighty-five percent of the time. However, if there were five bystanders, the student was only helped 31 percent of the time. Does that make sense? Shouldn't having more people present increase the chances that someone will get help? Amazingly, that's not the case. We all take cues from those around us about how to act in different situations. In emergency situations, many things prohibit bystanders from intervening:

· If no one else is acting, it is hard to go against the crowd.
· People may feel that they are risking embarrassment. (What if I'm wrong and they don't need help?)
· They may think there is someone else in the group who is more qualified to help.
· They may think that the situation does not call for help since no one else is doing anything

With each person taking cues from people around them, a common result is that no one does anything to help. What can we do about this problem?

As members of the Air Force community we all have a responsibility to help each other. Avoid being a bystander! Intervene regardless of what others are doing and don't be worried about being wrong; it is better to be wrong than to have done nothing at all.

"Prevent Sexual Assault: Ask, Act, and Intervene" is the theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month this month. Sexual assault can be prevented by individuals, both male and female, who stay aware of potentially dangerous situations and elect to intervene before a sexual assault takes place.

Stopping sexual assault in the military community requires every Air Force Member's involvement. Ask your friends if they need help, act when they do, and intervene when you see trouble. Be a leader, not a bystander.

Adapted with permission from DoD Sexual Assault Awareness 2008 Resource Guide

Anyone interested in becoming a victim advocate, please contact the RAF Lakenheath Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at 226-3765.

For any questions regarding a possible sexual assault, contact 01638-52-7272, or DSN: 226-7272, The 24-Hour Hot-Line. (If the call forwards to the command post, ask to speak to the SARC. All calls are strictly confidential.)