Yokota Air Base, Japan --
Yokota’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month with an information table and ice cream social on April 7 outside the Yokota Community Center.
SAAPM is observed nationally during the month of April. The Department of Defense’s 2021 theme is “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.”
One key takeaway SAPR hopes to drive home this month, and every month, is that help is always available.
“You are not alone,” said Staff Sgt. Nicole Rodriguez, volunteer victim advocate. “There are resources out there for you and you have friends, families, all these resources willing to work with you and get you through the tough times.”
As a prevention training opportunity, the Yokota SAPR office is virtually hosting guest speaker and trauma expert Myra Strand on April 12. Her training –“Men Too. The Pain Behind the Masc(ulinity)”- will be offered during two sessions, one at 10 a.m. and another at 2 p.m.
“One of the last things I want is for men to feel marginalized and for men to feel like there's no support for them,” said Robert Whitaker, 374th Airlift Wing sexual assault response coordinator. “We want men to know that this program is here to assist them as well.”
SAPR will send a base-wide email with login information closer to the date.
They are also offering discounted bowling on Friday, April 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the base bowling alley.
For the final event of the month, the SAPR office invites the Yokota community to unofficially observe Denim Day on April 28. Those who do not have to wear a uniform, or other form of dress code, are encouraged to wear jeans in solidarity against the idea that a sexual assault can be attributed to, or is because of, the clothing a person wears.
According to the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, the military received 7,825 reports of sexual assault in FY19, which was a three percent increase from FY18.
"Sexual assault and harassment remain persistent and corrosive problems across the total force," wrote Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a Feb. 26 memorandum to Defense Department leaders. "I expect every member of our total force to be part of the solution and leaders — both civilian and military — across the Department to take direct accountability to drive meaningful change."
It takes more than just awareness about a problem to create change, Whitaker said.
“Awareness about a problem is great,” said Whitaker, “but at the same time, we want to make sure that we are doing things in order to prevent it from happening in the first place.”
Yokota SAPR is on-call 24/7, 365 days a year, and can be reached by DSN at 225-7272 or cell at 090-3138-7250.