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Got Your Back

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard and Soldiers from the Army Reserve attend Got Your Back, a facilitated discussion presented at Timmerman Theater, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 12, 2014. Got Your Back discusses hooking-up, sexual assault and bystander intervention. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst numerous activities highlighting awareness and prevention are being held during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard and Soldiers from the Army Reserve attend Got Your Back, a facilitated discussion presented at Timmerman Theater, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 12, 2014. Got Your Back discusses hooking-up, sexual assault and bystander intervention. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst numerous activities highlighting awareness and prevention are being held during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard and Soldiers from the Army Reserve listen to presenter Jack Reitz at Got Your Back, a facilitated discussion presented at Timmerman Theater, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 12, 2014. Got Your Back discusses hooking-up, sexual assault and bystander intervention. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst numerous activities highlighting awareness and prevention are being held during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard and Soldiers from the Army Reserve listen to presenter Jack Reitz at Got Your Back, a facilitated discussion presented at Timmerman Theater, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 12, 2014. Got Your Back discusses hooking-up, sexual assault and bystander intervention. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst numerous activities highlighting awareness and prevention are being held during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Using graphic language and role acting, the facilitated discussion, Got Your Back, gave 108th Wing Airmen a better understanding of how our culture views sex, sexist language, sexual predators and how we can be better Wingmen by standing up for others.

The discussion led by presenters' Kelley Ristow and Jack Reitz at Timmerman Theater was part of April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

"Sexual assault is an issue that touches on other issues that include gender, sex and feelings about our community," said Ristow.

The presentation discussed hooking-up, sexual assault and bystander intervention with emphasis on awareness and prevention.

In addition, the discussion ranged from graphic to humorous to sober.

"Each presenter group has their own dynamic. Jack and I aim to model a respectful male and female dynamic," said Ristow.

It began by getting the audience involved in making the connections between sexist language and stereotypes and how it affects women and men.

"The discussion is about having a conversation with the people in the room," said Ristow. "It requires a community effort and that requires a facilitated class."

The discussion moved on to examine how sexual predators operate and how society is reluctant to act when it should. The audience also learned about the differences between consensual sex and rape, as well as the methodology used by predators. The myths that rape is just a regretted sexual experience and that the victim is to blame were shown to be methods that predators use to their own benefit.

"The audience learned that without realizing it, we create cultures in our workplace that allows for this very small number of perpetrators to infiltrate and take advantage of us," said Capt. April Doolittle, 108th Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "As bystanders, we can make a big difference in preventing sexual assaults."

Joint Base's Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities are part of a much broader effort that the Air Force is taking toward increasing awareness and prevention and ending sexual assault.

This is in line with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III's comments that: "Sexual assault has no place in our Air Force. We live in a culture of respect. We cherish our core values of integrity, service, and excellence. But in order to ensure all Airmen experience and benefit from those values, we must eliminate sexual assault in our ranks."

To accomplish that, Got Your Back examined who is responsible for helping, who should help and how we can make a difference.

"For Jack and I, we want everyone to understand that sexual assault is not a women's issue; it is everyone's issue," said Ristow.

"I want them to take away that talking about sexual assault is okay and that it is good for us to understand what each of us thinks about it," said Doolittle. "I want them to realize that sexual assault does happen among us and it's our responsibility as Wingman to intervene when we see something wrong."

The 108th Airmen were shown where and how to intervene, and were encouraged to act to end a climate that enables sex offenders to operate and go undetected.

"The training educated them on how perpetrators operate and what to look for so they know when to provide intervention," said Doolittle.

"I have received only positive feedback about the presentation: Comments have included 'This training felt more realistic'," said Ristow.