The reality of sexual assault - it can happen to anyone

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kevin Tyler
  • 51st Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
As a father of a teenage daughter, one of my greatest concerns is the thought of her dating. Many dads may agree with me when I say, "no guy will ever be good enough for my daughter," but the reality is, it's not my choice to make.

I've had many talks with her about the male perspective and what I thought "boys" wanted out of a relationship. As I reflect on our conversations, I believe my approach was more of a scare tactic so she'd bypass the dating scene and go straight to marriage at age 30.

However, dating and relationships are a natural part of life. The best thing I can do for her is to instill a solid foundation and hope she makes the best choice when choosing friends.

Although, how does anyone really know if the person they hang out with will end up hurting them one day?

Many people may feel they're a pretty good judge of character and think they'll never be in a dangerous situation when it comes to relationships. Yet, relationships typically begin with a certain level of trust. Unfortunately, statistics prove that the majority of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knew.

I'm sure you've seen the numerous AFN commercials about this subject. They are meant to heighten awareness, but you may find yourself tuning them out after awhile. As a sexual assault response coordinator, people have told me they don't understand why the sexual assault prevention and response program is so important because they do not see themselves as a victim. I then ask them to describe what they think a rapist looks like.

The answer is usually a stranger wearing a mask, jumping out from behind the bushes with a weapon attacking a lady jogging down a dimly lit path. You may be surprised to know only a small percentage of sexual assaults are strangers attacking someone in public places. More than 75 percent of victims say they knew their offenders.

Research shows that sexual predators stalk their prey in everyday social settings, such as parties, unit functions or other places where people socialize. They will watch for vulnerabilities in their victims, waiting for the best opportunity to strike.

Predators are usually very cunning and know how to put their victim at ease and gain their trust. They tend to use alcohol as their drug of choice. Why? Because it's legal, and they believe they can blame alcohol for their actions.

I'm certainly not trying to use "scare tactics" like I found myself doing with my daughter, but as the SARC part of my responsibility is to convey the reality of this serious crime.

Since I accepted this job, I've gained a deeper understanding of not only the physical pain, but the deep emotional scars that victims deal with for years after an incident. The saying "it takes a village" is not only true about raising children, it's also true about protecting our families, friends and coworkers from traumatic experiences like sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The theme for 2008 is "Ask, Act and Intervene." This means servicemembers should ASK if their friends and co-workers need help, ACT when help is needed, and INTERVENE when friends are in trouble.

As a father, I have an inherent obligation to protect my daughter. As servicemembers, we have a responsibility to protect our military family by being good wingmen.