Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teal ropes to spotlight sexual assault response

Commentary by 1st Lt. Tina Tissot
81st Training Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office

10/16/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Among the core of our force at Keesler Air Force Base are our technical training students who, no doubt, enter the military with an array of stories.

Although they come from all walks of life, service, sacrifice and commitment are some of the same threads that weave their stories together. But what happens when an incident of sexual assault, whether it occurred before entering military service or after, threatens individual and unit mission readiness?

The introduction of Keesler AFB's unique "teal rope" program will address issues surrounding sexual assault through student involvement. A comprehensive effort is required as part of the solution to effectively address sexual assault issues. The 81st Training Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, in coordination with the 81st Training Group, will manage the teal rope program. Keesler AFB leaders developed the program with the goal of increasing prevention and awareness within the student community and providing outreach events that challenge the beliefs and behaviors that enable sexual violence among peers.

Starting Oct. 15, selected Airmen will begin wearing teal ropes -- the color symbolizing sexual assault awareness and support -- within the student population. Teal rope members receive specialized training by the SAPRO staff and serve as a link between non-prior service students and SAPRO for information and referral support.

Involvement in the program is open to students who have a minimum of two months left in their training. Students must be recommended by their military training leader, pass a background check and maintain an 80 percent grade point average to be accepted into the program. Teal rope members are expected to model the Air Force core values; uphold the highest standards of professionalism as representatives of the SAPRO; and be an approachable, listening ear for their wingmen in times of need.

"This program is so important because it helps raise awareness among our newest Airmen, and they will carry that knowledge throughout their careers," said Chief Master Sgt. Angelica Johnson, 81st Training Wing command chief. "This is an opportunity for Airmen to be leaders and help regulate their fellow Airmen on an important issue. It's also a chance for Airmen to go to a peer they may be more comfortable with, which assists the overall prevention efforts across the base."

All Airmen deserve an environment that is free from sexual harassment and sexual assault, and a culture where they can be treated with dignity and respect.

Shortly after being sworn in as the 20th chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III addressed us all by saying, "Every Airmen has a story ... you are what makes our Air Force the best the world has ever known!"

Whether student or permanent party, we can all be part of the solution to end sexual assault.

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