What do you do?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Imagine it's Friday night and you're out at a bar with a few friends, everyone is sitting around, talking and having a good time.

One of your friends, whose boyfriend is out of town, goes to the bar for her first drink. She comes back, finishes her drink, and almost immediately starts behaving differently. Whereas before she was content to sit at your table and talk, now she is dancing, flirting and eventually kissing guys in the bar. She is about to leave with one of the guys she was dancing with, but you can tell she isn't behaving like herself. What do you do?

"I would have to intervene," said Master Sgt. Patrick Davis, 28th Operations Support Squadron chief controller and recent attendee of Bystander Intervention Training. "I'd need to find out why she was acting differently, remove her from the situation and take her home safely."

Sergeant Davis went on to say it might be extremely difficult to stop the friend if she was determined to leave with someone.

"I would force her to leave with me," said Shannon Holstein, 28th Bomb Wing sexual assault response coordinator. "Depending on the situation, I would bring another friend with me to help. From there we might possibly take the girl to the emergency room and have her checked for date rape drugs."

Mrs. Holstein said many people don't know that date rape drugs can cause a victim to behave more promiscuously than they normally would.

"We know this girl is in a committed relationship, and she suddenly changes her behavior after one drink," Mrs. Holstein said. "I would rather be safe than sorry and remove her from the situation."

Situations like this are part of the framework behind Ellsworth Air Force Base's Bystander Intervention Training, conducted by the SARC office.

"The Department of Defense has realized that sexual assault cannot be prevented," Mrs. Holstein said. "BIT training focuses on empowering Airmen to be part of the solution to these situations. We need Airmen to get involved before the assault happens."

BIT is a 90-minute course that Airmen are asked to attend once in their career. It focuses on how Airmen should react when they witness situations that could possibly lead to a sexual assault. Mrs. Holstein said she divides her classes by gender.

"Initially, mixed gender test classes were ineffective," she said. "There was a lot of conflict and blaming that emerged from the modules presented."

Mrs. Holstein said that by separating the classes she is able to adjust the modules to each individual audience.

"Generally, female classes are more focused on dealing with sexual harassment and climate settings associated with sexual assault," she said. "Male classes tend to focus on consent and alcohol related incidents."

Since the introduction of BIT, sexual assault reporting on Ellsworth has risen to nine reports in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 16 total reports in 2010.

"It doesn't necessarily mean more sexual assaults are happening," she said. "It means more people are comfortable coming forward and reporting incidents."

Mrs. Holstein said that with increased participation in BIT, Airmen can get the training they need to reduce the occurrence of sexual assaults.

"They will learn the skills they need to effectively recognize inappropriate situations and intervene before it's too late."