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Team JSTARS takes action against sexual assault; spreads awareness

Personnel from Team Robins walk laps around the base track during the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 10, 2014. Participants walked around the track that was decorated with helmets representing people from Robins Air Force Base who have been affected by sexual assault since 2005. This is one of many events planned for April in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons)

Personnel from Team Robins walk laps around the base track during the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 10, 2014. Participants walked around the track that was decorated with helmets representing people from Robins Air Force Base who have been affected by sexual assault since 2005. This is one of many events planned for April in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Lynda Washington, from the 129th Combat Training Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard, gives a decorative sexual assault awareness bag to Tech. Sgt. Sadarius Wright, from the 116th Force Support Squadron, during a parking lot blitz for the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 1, 2014. Airmen from the 116th and 461st Air Control wings volunteered to greet fellow Team JSTARS members as they came to work in the morning to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Lynda Washington, from the 129th Combat Training Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard, gives a decorative sexual assault awareness bag to Tech. Sgt. Sadarius Wright, from the 116th Force Support Squadron, during a parking lot blitz for the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 1, 2014. Airmen from the 116th and 461st Air Control wings volunteered to greet fellow Team JSTARS members as they came to work in the morning to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Guzman, 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, presents a decorative sexual assault awareness bag to 1st Lt. Sarah Kathe, 116th Medical Group, Georgia Air National Guard, during a parking lot blitz for the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 1, 2014. Airmen from the 116th and 461st Air Control wings volunteered to greet fellow Team JSTARS members as they came to work in the morning to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Guzman, 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, presents a decorative sexual assault awareness bag to 1st Lt. Sarah Kathe, 116th Medical Group, Georgia Air National Guard, during a parking lot blitz for the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 1, 2014. Airmen from the 116th and 461st Air Control wings volunteered to greet fellow Team JSTARS members as they came to work in the morning to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

Jayne Bishop, a victim advocate for the 78th Air Base Wing, hangs a t-shirt on the Line of Courage in the Team JSTARS wing headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 8, 2014.  Bishop and volunteers from the 116th Air Control Wing put the display of hand-decorated shirts on a clothesline to bring attention to sexual assault as a part of the Robins Sexual Assault Awareness Month events. The Line of Courage will be displayed in various locations around the base during the month of April. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

Jayne Bishop, a victim advocate for the 78th Air Base Wing, hangs a t-shirt on the Line of Courage in the Team JSTARS wing headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 8, 2014. Bishop and volunteers from the 116th Air Control Wing put the display of hand-decorated shirts on a clothesline to bring attention to sexual assault as a part of the Robins Sexual Assault Awareness Month events. The Line of Courage will be displayed in various locations around the base during the month of April. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 22, 2014 -- Airmen from Team JSTARS partnered with the 78th Air Base Wing for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in an effort to combat sexual assault and fuel a culture of positive change throughout the local military community.

To kick off the campaign, 116th and 461st Air Control Wing members flooded the base's parking lots April 1 in a pre-planned parking lot blitz.

Volunteers handed out black and teal tote bags filled with Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program materials in a mass effort to raise awareness and educate members of the base.

According to Maj. Tasha Liscombe-Folds, 116th ACW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, the DoD, as a whole, has changed its approach to sexual assault.

"We're moving away from the notion that protecting oneself from assault is a matter of personal responsibility," said Liscombe-Folds. "In the past, training focused on: Do this and do that and you can prevent sexual assault. None of the research or any cases we've had support that idea; we do not want victims to feel as if they are to blame."

"The Robins' Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program reinforces the Air Force's commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability," said Jayne Bishop, 78th ABW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

According to Bishop, initiatives like the parking lot blitz and other events the base will host are essential towards spreading awareness. One of those events was the "Walk a Mile in Their Shoes" held here, April 11, as part of the month-long SAAM campaign. More than 40 participants from the 116th ACW and the 78th ABW came out to show support.

"The men and women of the 116th ACW are held to the highest standard both professionally and personally," said Col. Kevin Clotfelter, 116th ACW commander. "Sexual Assault Awareness Month gives us a chance to raise awareness and do our part to prevent any conditions that could contribute to such crimes."

According to Maj. Liscombe-Folds, there have been 105 reported sexual assault cases at our base alone since 2005. She said she believes the increase in reporting is evidence that the cultural paradigm toward sexual assault is changing.

"It's not that there are more incidents occurring--more victims are coming forward and reporting. They feel safe," she said. "In the end, the most important thing is getting help to the victim."

According to Maj. Liscombe-Folds, sexual assault has long-term psychological, emotional and physical effects on members that can negatively impact the mission.

"We're a family. We have a job to do, but we're not robots; we're humans. We want the victims to feel cared for. We want them to recover and heal," said Liscombe-Folds. "Through recovery, they are able to be a successful member of the team and the mission."

"Whether it happened before you came into the Air Force, while you were in the Air Force, or if it happened to a family member--our program can get you the help you need to be a thriving survivor," Liscombe-Folds added.