MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Always working toward socio-cultural change to bolster mission success, a team of Malmstrom Air Force Base personnel dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention participated in a NoMore Violence conference held in Great Falls, Montana, April 2-6, 2018, with Partnering for Prevention community groups.
The early April conference at Great Falls College Montana State University kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month effectively broadening the dialogue of how to create a culture that eliminates sexual assault – and violence – in military and civilian communities.
Kelly Helms, 341st Missile Wing interim sexual assault response coordinator, said the fourth annual conference had good turnout, with city officials, students, Malmstrom community and personnel members, and guest speakers participating.
Helms arrived at Malmstrom in 1990 and became a sexual assault response coordinator in 2007. He became an alternate sexual assault response coordinator in 2008, and has been in both of these roles for more than a decade.
“The goal in participation of the conference was to provide an awareness to the community, including our base, about how to identify and prevent overall violence, and also human trafficking, other sexual violence and child abuse,” Helms said.
Shan Foster, former NBA and basketball star, spoke on men's roles in ending violence against women. With men taking a strong role in sharing the support of SAPR and other anti-violence, pro-equality movements, he said closed mindsets on the subjects should soon become a minority.
Foster’s presentation was moving, Helms said, because he offered a man’s perspective on how to support women in finding safe environments in every aspect of their lives, and how – as a man – to relate to a woman’s life or victim’s experience.
“He identified principles that men should take into account,” Helms said. “They included to be yourself, learn and share, choose wisely, speak up, encourage and celebrate and to contribute.”
SAAPM and Malmstrom activism
“We’re putting information booths in different locations along with static displays,” Helms said.
Hitting home on the message of SAAPM is the rotating static display, “What I was wearing” making its way to most of Malmstrom’s heavily trafficked areas.
There are four panels and four stories to go with the actual clothing worn by sexual assault victims. A hoody. Baggy jeans. Oversized, no form fitting shirts. The message is heard loud and clear.
“It doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing,” Helms said. “Sexual assault is not about what a person has on.”
Throughout the rest of April, look for information booths and the static display at Malmstrom locations where key happenings are going on.
This week it will be at Building 500 in the lobby, the following week at the base clinic and during Wingman Day it will be where the highest turnout is.
Information tables will be set up at the base clinic and at Building 500. The tables have knowledgeable people who can answer questions, have discussions, and provide pamphlets, brochures and promotional items.
After more than a decade of watching organizational change, Helms said the biggest change is the top down strategic message effect.
“We have seen more leadership involvement in promoting the prevention part of the program,” Helms said. “There is much more verbal emphasis on what to look at, recognize and prevent coming from commanders.”
New initiatives are always making way for more expression and freedom for victims.
“Individuals can now get support at deployed locations instead of having to wait to return,” Helms said.
There are new classes directed at preventing violence with military intimate partners. There are apps, counselors, legal help for victims and policies now all in place.
Helms said more people are becoming responsible for knowing about what’s available and how to identify events that violate people and rules.
“Although our work is focused specifically in the area of helping victims in work-related sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. Eventually we hope everyone can change their ideas about being fair and stopping violence,” Helms said.
As evidenced in what is read and reported around the world, for example with the #metoo movement, the take-away message at the fourth annual NoMore Violence Conference shows hope that across the globe, the country and the Department of Defense, many people now see real strides in changing minds to create a safer environment to report wrongdoings, to prevent wrongdoings and to respect and support victims who do step forward.