In the afternoon session of SAPR Day, we broke into small groups to discuss various scenarios involving sexual assault or its attempt.
My readers are correct in their anticipation that I find much to criticize in the way these scenarios are used. These criticisms are not an apology for sexual assault; on the contrary, and especially now that the armed services are soon to be overrun by faggotry, I agree with the principle that nobody should be handled against their will. But not everything said and done in the name of this principle is just, fair, or right, as my commentary on these scenarios will show.
“Sexual Assault” covers behavior with significant variance of malfeasance; however, we only have one category of offense and therefore one punishment: dishonorable discharge, plus whatever prison time is assigned.
As usual, I will be happy to produce the full program for any that want it; I have presented here
2. EXERCISE: “The Reality Walk”
[Embarrassing dramatization emphasizing the number of Air Force victims of sexual assault.]
4. Why do offenders want us to question victims and believe the myths around sexual assault?
- They can get away with what they do
- It allows them to hide
- It’s easier to think that what someone did caused the crime than the “good guy” was capable of doing it (just world theory, our wingman wouldn’t do this to one of our own)
6. Those of you who do personally know a survivor, that means a lot that they can trust you with such private information. What can we do to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward and report when they are ready?
- Believe them
- Know who to refer to if the person needs help
- Never blame them no matter what the situation is
- Respect their privacy by not gossiping
We will get to the "myths of sexual assault" in greater detail in a subsequent post. Meanwhile, given the statistics about the prevalence of not-quite-true or out-of-context accusations, "questioning victims" ought to be part of any investigation. But since this training is given to the general population, the agenda appears to be creating an ideological culture in which women never lie, never misrepresent situations, and are never at fault in any way. All this is in the service of “encouraging” women to report any and all infractions, no matter how trivial.
I want to tread a thin line here, because I don’t actually believe that women (or men) should be expected or required to put up with physical contact that they don’t want. Here’s a personal example: I got my butt patted during a soccer game 20 years ago. I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t sexual; since the player was on the opposing team, it was probably a dominance move. I didn’t like it, and if it had happened twice I would have made a point of telling him to stop. If it had happened a third time, I would have liked to have the option of having a higher authority to order him to stop. But this kind of escalation isn’t available anymore.
4. The Invisible Backpack (20 minutes)
Objective #1: Participants will appraise how daily interactions directly affect survivors of sexual assault.
Objective #2: Participants will categorize behaviors as either supportive or detrimental to encouraging victims to report.
The facilitator puts on a backpack or shoulder bag. On the floor in the front of the room put down several (10-20) sheets of crumpled up paper that will represent rocks.
STATE: In 2012 there were 3,311 victims of sexual assault in the Air Force. Assume for a second that your best friend in the AF is one of those people, but you don’t know about it, nor does your unit. Your friend is carrying a heavy backpack. They are struggling with whether to report. What are the kinds of things that are said or done that may discourage them from coming forward and getting help?
Procedure: Allow participants to brainstorm and list as many reasons as they can.
- Jokes about rape and assault
- Stating that victims lie or make false reports
- Stating that victims should have…or shouldn’t have….done something
- Not believing that sexual assault really happens
- Degrading comments about the opposite gender always…
For everything that is said, keep track of the number and who offered the example. Then when all examples are exhausted, have each person who offered a response go get one of the crumpled up pieces of paper that represent a rock, and put it in the backpack. This represents who these comments and events add to survivor’s burden.
STATE: Each of you who gave a response, please grab a paper and put it in the back pack. The papers represent rocks. Each rock weighs down the victim. Each rock makes it harder for a victim to ask for help, to report and to heal. In 2013, 1,376 people reported their sexual assault. There are many more who have not reported. We don’t know who they are but they live and work among us and they carry a heavy invisible backpack. Things we do or say or allow to be said around us add to the weight of what they carry.
STATE: What are things that are said or done that might encourage a survivor to come forward and get help?
Procedure: Allow participants to brainstorm and list as many reasons as they can.
- Confronting someone who jokes about rape
- Asking if someone is okay when you notice they might need it
- Supportive comments about victims when you hear about sexual assault stories
- Stopping people when the gossip or judge a report of sexual assault that they were not present to witness
- Sharing your personal commitment to sexual assault prevention
- Confronting any type of sexual harassment in the work place
1. Do you think reporting a sexual assault makes the back pack heavier or lighter?
Could do both depending on how it is received and how the victim is supported: if the victim is blamed, not believed or receives a lot of “rocks” then the back pack would be heavier. If the victim is supported then it may be a relief to have reported.
5. If the unit immediately jumps to the defense of the reported offender, what message does that send to the silent non-reporting victims?
- They are already judged as lying or the trouble maker
- Don’t come forward to report because no one will believe you
(It is important that we remember that all are innocent until proven guilty. This does not, however, state that we don’t believe and support the victim. When we are not present during an event it is important not to judge what happened. Our role is to remain as neutral as possible.)
This isn't especially consistent. We are simultaneously urged to believe and "support" the victim without reservation while suppressing the doubts of others on the grounds that they weren't there so how could they know? Support for the accused, for reasons of character, are ruled out of order.
“Innocent until proven guilty”: that last bit is for the lawyers. At least two sex assault defendants have successfully argued that the hang-'em-high rhetoric from the president on down constitute unlawful command influence and prejudiced the legal proceedings against them. Of course, the entire point of everything up to that last paragraph is to give all prejudice to complainants.
5. The “Break Room” scenario
Objective#1: Airmen will create intervention strategies as it relates to the scenario and practice the strategies in the session.
Objective #2: Using examples in the scenario, airmen will understand the basic differences between sexual harassment and sexual assault.
STATE: We are going to discuss some scenarios; each is a true story that happened recently in our Air Force. I would like to have a volunteer read a scenario, “Who Does This?”, out loud for us. As he/she reads I would like to ask you to raise your hand, hold it for a moment and then put it down each time some sort of intervention should have taken place.
Who Does This?
|A SARC received a phone call one day from an Airman, we’ll call Airman A, who wanted to share an experience. Airman A was in the break room at work and overheard a couple other co-workers discussing their plans for the weekend. They shared an elaborate plan to spike the punch at an upcoming party they were having. They were going to have beer and hard alcohol but would label the spiked punch as the “safe option”. They then went on to discuss the intent to get the “hot chicks” smashed in order to have sex. One of them joked “like A1C Exteria over there, check out her rack” pointing to an Airman who was eating across the room. Several people in the break room laughed at that point. The two Airmen went on to challenge one another about who would be more successful in getting “lucky”. |
The gut reaction of Airman A was that this was not okay. It just didn’t seem right. Airman A described looking around the room, which had Airmen of all ranks, to include a supervisor, to gage their reactions. Since no one seemed to be phased Airman A thought “maybe I’m being a prude” “maybe I’m over reacting”. Airman A chose to do nothing and thought that would be it.
A few days later Airman A heard a couple women talking about a party. One of the females was crying and talking about passing out, not knowing what happened, only drinking punch, and being sexually assaulted.
Realizing that this was the same party that the Airmen in the break room were discussing a cold chill ran down Airman A’s spine. Airman A was calling the SARC to find out what to do, what could have been done, and how he felt now.
11. What would you have been comfortable doing if you were in Airman A’s position in the break room? (encourage participants to come up with many interventions)
Could have talked to the two guys directly. “Do you guys really think that it is ok to talk to her like that?” “Would you like for someone to make that comment to your mother or daughter?” “All of these sexual assault trainings that we have received and you are still making comments like this?” “Everything that is going on in the military about sexual assault and sexual harassment and you guys think that it is ok to talk like this?” “how lame that you have to lie to get women” “hey, knock it off”
The irony here is that this list of encouraged responses omits the very response that I would be most likely to make: you’re going to get in trouble!
Let me tell you a true story: a few classes ahead of mine at Squadron Officer’s School at Maxwell AFB, a few captains decided to re-enact a memorable scene from the Pat Conroy novel The Lords of Discipline. In a close competition, they decided to leave a platter of Ex-lax –laced brownies in the classroom of a rival flight. Hilarity ensued . . . except, in the real world, drugging fellow military personnel is a criminal offense. IIRC, these officers got away with “Article 15s” in lieu of courts martial, but that was the end of their military careers.
Confronted with this conversation, I would hasten to tell this story, with this added warning: if whatever happens becomes the subject of an investigation, and it comes out that you spiked the punch, you will be in for a world of pain. Save yourself the trouble.
What I like about this response is that it doesn’t come from an adversarial posture. I don’t happen to think much of the morality of the individuals in this discussion, but I doubt that coming at them from that angle is as a constructive approach as one that puts us on the same side in keeping them out of trouble.
And the fact that this response apparently occurred to none of the authors of this discussion guide highlights for me that they don’t actually want people to just not commit sexual assault. They’re looking for ideological submission.
6. Jack Video and offender I’s (30 minutes)
DISCUSSION: Let’s now evaluate the film about Jack the offender.
2. If Jack wouldn’t have met the female in this scenario do you think he would have stopped or would he have looked for another victim?
- Would have looked until he found a victim
- Would have repeated it on other occasions too
3. How does focusing on offender behaviors relate to sexual assault prevention?
- In order to stop sexual assault we have to stop the offender because he will keep creating victims
- It’s the offender who’s behaviors are illegal and harmful
- It is the offender’s behaviors that caused the crime, not the victims; if Jack didn’t get that victim he would have gotten another.
See my earlier commentary on the “Jack” Video.
STATE: A more accurate question when it comes to understanding offenders’ behaviors is not “why would they do that?”- they do it and continue to do it because they can- it is “why would they stop?” Offenders know what they are doing, intentionally take advantage of others and are manipulative. What in the environment sends an offender the message that they won’t be accepted, that they will be confronted, that victims will be believed and they will be held accountable? As members of the Air Force we are the people responsible for sending offenders this message.
7. Is this a leader? (30 minutes)
Objective #1: Participants will be able to identify environmental factors that allow offenders to operate.
Objective #2: Participants will appraise precursors in offender behaviors that would alert bystanders to intervene.
Objective #3: Participants will evaluate how early bystander intervention helps prevent harm to Airmen and our Air Force mission.
Is this a leader? Part 1
SSgt Luis Walker was convicted on 28 charges ranging from rape, aggravated sexual assault and sodomy along with other charges. He is serving a 20 year sentence and received a dishonorable discharge. During the investigation and trial, details revealed how he operated. Trainees and other MTIs testified that Walker often used lewd comments and was flirtatious to trainees. He often gave special attention and spent extra time with specific trainees and made sexually suggestive comments and sent inappropriate text messages. He would gain the trust of trainees and get them alone in his office or in empty buildings. He then forced kissing, touching, or penetrations. Two victims testified that they said “no” but the MTI ignored their refusals. SSgt Walker would threaten victims that he would get them kicked out if they told or that he would ruin their military career.
It was found that SSgt Walker perpetrated crimes against 10 victims. None of the victims came forward on their own. One victim told a friend, we’ll call Trainee X. Trainee X was washed back and told her new MTI that her friend was sexually assaulted by SSgt Walker. Trainee X asked the MTI not to tell anyone. The MTI did report to his supervisor who told the MTI “it’s not going forward” because it’s “not a credible report”. Three weeks later the original victim did report her sexual assault. In that three week period SSgt Walker sexually assaulted 2 more victims.
3. At trial others testified that they knew of or saw the grooming behaviors and sexual harassment that SSgt Walker continued to perpetrate. Why do you think these individuals did not report or confront him?
- Fear, rank, power
- It was common place so no one thought it was a big deal
- It was just innuendos, jokes etc. not a crime like rape, “no big deal”
- Pluralistic ignorance: They thought everyone else was okay with this so they did not want to address it
Question: was it apparent to “these individuals” that the “grooming behaviors” (a.k.a. seduction) were non-consensual?
That question doesn’t seem to interest anyone. MTI-student fraternization is specifically prohibited under all circumstances, but the responsibility of maintaining professional relationships falls entirely with the MTI; even if they consent, the trainee is exempt from punishment. But the argument being put forward is that third parties somehow have an obligation to police these boundaries in the name of preventing “sexual harassment” that the alleged victim does not.
Is this a leader? Part 3
Two military training instructors were working out in a small gym. The MTI #1 told the MTI #2, “you have to get some 18 year old ass- they can’t turn us down”. The MTI #2 told a MTI #3 who went to tell a supervisor. The supervisor said “I got it” but didn’t do anything with the information. The MTI #3, knowing that the supervisor did not take the report anywhere, reported it to the squadron superintendent when they were on the golf course. The report did come out and along with other information from the investigation MTI #1 was convicted of sexual assault. MTI #3, however, who brought all this to light was ostracized by his peers for reporting.
2. Why would MTI #3 be ostracized for reporting this crime?
- A culture that supports offenders or abusing power will work to hide one of their own
- It brings shame to the career field; what happens at BMT stays at BMT
A couple of points here. First, this would be another example where the appropriate reaction would be to confront MTI #1: You’re gonna get in trouble talking sh!t like that.
Second, the social dynamics aren’t hard to figure out: nobody, including people fully on board with the program of stamping out sexual assault, likes eavesdroppers who report private conversations. MTI #1 was ultimately convicted of sexual assault; although it isn’t clear from the narrative whether “other information” included, you know, sexual assault. (Our own facilitator admitted this as a source of ambiguity.) Now, my personal threshold for reporting a private conversation would be a specific admission to a past crime or a credible threat to carry out a future crime. But this kind of locker room trash-talking, while dangerously inappropriate (obviously) in the current environment, wouldn’t make the cut.
That’s not to say that I would necessarily hate MTI #3 or ostracize him. But I’d be extra restrained around him.
8. Positive Bystanders (15 minutes)
Objective #1: Participants will hear and share positive examples of bystander intervention.
Objective #2: Participants will appraise the benefits of Airmen being proactive bystanders.
STATE: The following are stories from our Air Force that describe how individuals used their power and leadership to help prevent a possible sexual assault.
COME WITH ME
As all the young airmen rushed to avow how they, too, would rush to help any young lady in that situation, one said something very revealing: “What’s the worst that could happen from offering to help? That she tells you to buzz off?”
I’ve spent quite a few posts now picking at the moral and logical loose threads of the SAPR ideology. But, emotionally speaking, this question goes to the heart of what bothers me about this program. With the partial exception of my first assignment 23 years ago (and even then people knew not to act up in front of women), the military culture as I experienced it post-Tailhook has been remarkably free of anything that looks like sexual harassment, let alone sexual assault. Perhaps it’s a problem in other career fields. Perhaps I just haven’t been invited to the right parties. Perhaps I’m just oblivious. But the argument that sexual assault is some kind of crisis besetting the military is one completely beyond my personal observation that I can say with confidence that what ever problem it is, it isn’t my problem, or rather, it’s not a problem that I am likely to ever have to confront personally.
However, the culture of buzz off is one that I deal with every day. Granted, it never comes to a verbal beat-down. It never comes to a verbal exchange at all. It’s rather passing the same women in the hallway day after day, seeing them see me, and then watching as they either study the floor in embarrassment or stare straight ahead in icy determination not to make eye contact. And no, not all women do this; plenty are sociable enough. But this is my median expectation of white women under 30.*
Now, on the one hand, I’m over it: I’m a securely married guy, and I don’t put my ego on the line by initiating interactions with women I don’t already have a relationship with. But that’s kind of my point. I don’t send chatty emails to girls at work. I don’t offer to “show them around base”. I don’t talk to them unless they talk to me first. And I don’t offer to “help” them unless they ask me.
This isn’t much of a threat. There is basically zero probability I’m going to be there under those circumstances, if such even exist, that might make a young woman wish they hadn’t coldly ignored all the men whose help they suddenly need. But that only means that the government is wasting my time and energy with its endless SAPR briefings, lectures, “down-days”, and all the rest.
* Parenthetically, this is something that I’ve mainly noticed in my present work environment. Thinking back on it, I have seldom been (how can I put this) exposed to the presence of even moderate numbers of young women as I am here. That’s the advantage of engineering: it’s the last all-male environment. The only exception was teaching non-engineers as a university instructor. But being an instructor carried a certain cachet, and perhaps being an officer instead of a civilian carried modestly more cachet as well.