KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and the Keesler SAPR office has organized multiple events throughout the month.
Since the creation of the SAPR office in 2005 many different avenues are being used to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault.
“It is an opportunity to raise awareness about sexual assault and an opportunity to emphasize our goal of creating a culture where everybody is being treated with dignity and respect,” said Glen Popejoy, 81st Training Wing SAPR program manager.
In 2017, there were 6,769 reports of sexual assault and of those reports, 1,480 were from the Air Force, said Barry Newman, 81st TRW SAPR victim advocate.
Newman also said the reporting of sexual assault rates have gone up over the years, but that should not be measured as a failure.
“Our goal is to have all sexual assaults reported,” said Popejoy. “There are several reasons why individuals will and won’t report, but our senior leadership in the SAPR program established a goal to have the incidents of sexual assaults and the reports of sexual assaults to be the same.”
Some of the events occurring throughout the month are a SAPR luncheon at the Bay Breeze Event Center, a 5k run, a t-shirt logo contest and an awareness table set up in various locations around base every Tuesday.
“We’re also going to have donation boxes starting March 25 in various locations where people can come, put items such as diapers, toiletry items and tissues and those are going to be donated to the Gulf Coast Center for Non-Violence,” said D’Angellette Woods, 81st TRW SAPR victim advocate.
There will also be a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event that is hosted by the Gulf Coast Center for Non-Violence starting at 8 a.m. on April 12 at the Light House in Biloxi, where individuals walk in heels.
“The event focuses on female sexual assault,” said Popejoy. “We know it crosses all genders, races and ethnicities, but more so it’s an opportunity for like-minded people to get together and recognize the issue of sexual assault in the military.”
Woods attended last year and said she enjoyed seeing individuals from different branches participating and witnessing the camaraderie between everybody supporting the event.
By organizing all these events, Woods hopes people learn something they didn’t know before.
“Our goals are to reduce the fear of reporting, reprisal, intimidation, retaliation and let people know they will be supported and taken care of,” said Popejoy. “We’re on a mission to change the culture, perceptions and stereotypes associated with sexual assault. All of these things are the reason why we have this observance.”