The Air Force has been struggling with cases of sexual assault. Nearly 800 cases were reported last year and military leaders say many more are going unreported. April is sexual assault awareness month and WYSO’s Emily McCord spokes with Congressman Mike Turner for an update on how the Air Force is working to eradicate the problem.
Mike Turner represents Wright Patterson Air Force Base in the 10th Congressional district and also is the co-chair for the military’s sexual assault prevention caucus. He says the biggest challenge to stopping sexual violence is that victims are not reporting sexual violence, and one of big reasons is that victims are afraid of retaliation or of the negative impact it could have on their career.
"That is why, the assaulters are getting away with it, because if the vitim is afraid to come forward then they’re in an environment where there’s a lowered risk to the assaulters. We need to change that," says Turner.
Congress has passed a law that guarantees legal council to victims when they report an assault, but Turner says its been difficult to implement. Earlier this year, the Air Force launched a pilot program that he says hopefully will serve as a model for other branches in the military. But Turner adds it takes a broad effort, both national and local, to change a culture that has allowed sexual assault to continue.
"You can’t legislate culture. You can’t change laws and not have people who are culturally shifted to the new reality to implement them. I think it all has together," says Turner.
Turner says several programs at Wright-Patt that have been working towards that goal, including support groups for young airmen and awareness campaigns. Late last year, Wright-Patt took part in an air force wide inspection to rid inappropriate materials from work spaces at the base. Over 200 instances were reported, but base officials say none were considered obscene.