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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The mission of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate the public on how to prevent it.

Each day, people witness a continuum of behaviors that range from being respectful and safe, to sexually abusive and violent. While we hope we can eliminate sexual assault in our military, we know we can train our Soldiers and Airmen to be active bystanders who can intervene and prevent sexual assault in our Connecticut National Guard.

This year's campaign, "It's time ... to get involved," incorporates a bystander approach to sexual violence prevention. A bystander, or witness, is anyone who sees a situation but may or may not know what to do, may think others will act or may be afraid to do something. Research shows that engaging bystanders is a promising way to help prevent sexual violence in communities. 

The Air Force has mandated that every Airman will get the one-time, 90-minute Bystander Intervention Training, or BIT, by July 2012, to train Airmen to intervene safely in situations that, left unchecked, could turn into a sexual assault.

Sexual assault is not congruent with military values and degrades both the victim and the mission. It affects co-workers, units, families, the military and its community.

Connecticut has taken a lead in providing victim services. We have more than 38 Army and Air Guard Victim Advocates (VAs) and our Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) have helped train VAs from many other states.

This month, we plan to have tables set up where units are drilling throughout the state. These tables will be set up with sexual assault prevention material to help educate our servicemembers and arm them with prevention tools and resources.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault while in the military, please don't hesitate to contact your Joint Force Headquarters SARC at 860-883-4798 or the 103rd Airlift Wing SARC at 860-895-3526.

The Department of Defense has joined forces with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) to create a full-time, professionally manned, 24/7 helpline and website: 877-995-5247, https://safehelpline.org/. Both are secure and completely confidential.