PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team hosted the second annual Sexual Assault and Awareness Prevention Month (SAAPM) 5k Road Race on April 8, 2018 at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire.
The event was created to promote sexual assault awareness and prevention around base. More than 60 Airmen ran to support the SAAPM message and more than 20 Airmen volunteered on the course as facilitators.
Maj. Moira A. Cuthbert, the sexual assault and response coordinator for the 157th Air Refueling Wing, said the importance of this event was described best by one of the Airmen who ran last year.
“He shared with me that his niece had been assaulted while serving in the Army,” Cuthbert said. “She didn’t know who she could go to and she didn’t know what her resources were. She ended up taking her own life as a result.”
Cuthbert added, the race meant so much because the base was raising awareness.
“I believe if we can reach even one person,” said Cuthbert. “It makes a difference.”
Events such as the 5k and Denim Day, are opportunities to extend the SAPR message to Airmen.
Denim Day is held to support survivors and educate communities about the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. It began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction in 1998, stating that because the victim’s jeans were so tight, she must have assisted the perpetrator in removing them.
Members of the wing are encouraged to wear jeans April 25 to show their support for eradicating sexual violence and rape culture.
“I hope these events demonstrate to people that it’s more than just their SARC and commander that support them,” explained Cuthbert, as several runners crossed the finish line. “I hope they can see there are so many people on base that are there to support them and want them to do well.”
The 2018 theme for SAAPM is, “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.”
Chief Master Sgt. David Obertanec, state command chief of the New Hampshire National Guard, said events like the SAAPM 5k promote the message of the SAPR program in a positive light.
“Even a small event like this has such a huge impact on the base,” said Obertanec. “It promotes the well-being of our Airmen and brings attention to a really important issue in a fun way.”
SAAPM is recognized by both military and civilian communities. Airmen are encouraged to set an example with their behavior both on and off base, in their military and civilian careers.
Cuthbert said the Department of Defense wants to raise awareness to destigmatize being a survivor of a crime like sexual assault in both military and civilian life.
“In the past many people have been hesitant to come forward,” said Cuthbert. “But as we increase awareness and knowledge about sexual assault, people have opened their minds and their hearts to support the survivors.”
The DoD observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members at every level.
Col. William R. Davis, vice wing commander of the 157th ARW, addressed the runners before the race.
“SAAPM is a month,” said Davis. “But protecting our people is a year-long commitment.”