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Portrait of Mrs. Rachel Phillips, 169th Fighter Wing, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina

Portrait of Mrs. Rachel Phillips, 169th Fighter Wing, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE --

Editor's Note: Mrs. Rachel Phillips, the 169th Fighter Wing's Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), submitted this guest commentary for April's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. You may reach her at 803-647-8085.

Annually we acknowledge and celebrate Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) in April. It was formerly known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. SAAPM has been observed nationally by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center since 2001. This month we are honored to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of SAAPM. For those who work in the field of sexual violence, it means raising awareness and support to our survivors of sexual violence. It takes a brave person to come forward and open up about trauma and our survivors do that when they reach out for help. SAAPM means raising awareness to others who may not be informed about sexual violence happening within their own communities. Whether we see it or not, survivors carry their scars with them. SAAPM means educating others about primary prevention. We talk about primary prevention a lot. But what this means is stopping something before it even happens.

In the military, whenever there is a safety incident, we talk about all of the things that should have occurred and what policies or procedures we need to change so the incident does not happen again. We investigate, we dissect the situation and the environment and we change processes to ensure it does not happen again. Unfortunately, in most sexual violence cases, when we dissect the situation we find people who could have intervened but decided not to and the individuals affected by this crime are forever changed. When people are asked why they chose not to intervene, the answers vary but often it comes down to a lack of confidence in understanding the situation.

The message from those of us in the field is very simple: If you see something that does not look right, intervene. It can be as simple as distracting someone with an amazing app you just downloaded on your phone or as serious as contacting the authorities. One size does not fit all when we are talking about taking care of our Swamp Fox family. But trust your gut and if something does not look or feel right, say something. We want to stand by our DoD 2021 theme of “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.” We have to look out for one another, take care of each other and stand up against sexual violence. It has no place in our community and it will take all of us to eradicate this crime from our ranks.

If you or someone you know needs helps, please visit www.safehelpline.org or contact me directly at 803-647-8085.