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Hurts one ... affects all

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- I've been pondering the slogan, "Hurts one ... affects all," as it can really be applied to many situations in life, not just sexual assault.

I began to ask my psychology students something similar when I started teaching at Boise State University three years ago. I asked, "How do our decisions affect other individuals, and our society?"

Their responses were usually divided - some asserted our individual choices make a difference most of the time, even if we don't see the direct influence. Conversely, others stated they hadn't even considered how their decisions affect others. I'm not sure this is really an issue of maturity or learning from experience as I've heard some individuals claim. Rather, I believe it is a conscious effort or awareness of one's self.

Have you ever thought about how your decisions affect the Air Force mission, your fellow Airmen, family and friends? I ask this question at the Bystander Intervention Training, and it typically sparks a variety of answers and lively dialogue. Attempting to educate Airmen on sexual assault prevention truly takes this type of interaction among peers.

I've heard in every class, whether it consisted of males or females, that a fellow Airman's financial, relationship, physical and job competency issues affect them, their family, their squadron, and even the Air Force as a whole. What I don't remember hearing anyone mention is, "sexual assault affects the Air Force mission, me, my family and friends."

I then ask the class, "What about sexual assault? Who does it affect?" The answer is typically, "the alleged victim and perpetrator." I then dig a bit deeper and ask questions such as, "What if the victim is injured during an attack and can't do their assigned job? What if they are sent home early from a deployed location or moved to another work center? If the perpetrator is charged and sentenced, how is the family affected? How is the squadron morale affected? The effect of one person's lack of respect for a fellow human being impacts so much more than just the victim.

If we can teach our Airmen to expand their thought process to think about how their individual attitudes and actions have a significant ripple effect, and then tie that process into the ramifications of sexual assault, I believe the training is a success.

For more information about the sexual assault prevention or BIT programs, call the MHAFB Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at (208) 828-6622.