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Vandenberg conducts bystander intervention training

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Taking a proactive approach, Donna Rathbun, the 30th Space Wing sexual assault response coordinator, visits several organizations on base, every week, to inform the base populace about the services provided by Vandenberg’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Steve Bauer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Taking a proactive approach, Donna Rathbun, the 30th Space Wing sexual assault response coordinator, visits several organizations on base, every week, to inform the base populace about the services provided by Vandenberg’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Steve Bauer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office here is currently fulfilling an Air Force training requirement by conducting the United States Air Force Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Training Course to all required base personnel.

Bystander intervention training is a requirement that must be completed by June 2012 by all Air Force active-duty personnel, Guard and Reserve members, and civilians who supervise Air Force military personnel.

The 90-minute, gender-specific training is a strategy that motivates and mobilizes people who may see, hear or otherwise recognize signs of inappropriate or unsafe situations in order to intervene and prevent sexual assaults from occurring.

"The bystander intervention training is just another avenue for us to continue letting our military and civilian population know how important sexual assault prevention is," said Donna Rathbun, the 30th Space Wing sexual assault response coordinator. "I want people to come to this class with an open mind, and leave with the knowledge that they can do something to prevent sexual assault."

Vandenberg's bystander intervention training is broken down into three modules, or classes: Leader's Module, Men's Module and Women's Module. The Leader's Module is bystander intervention training that is specifically designed for squadron to wing-level leadership. The base's remaining male and female population will filter into correlating gender-specific modules. No more than 25 people will be assigned to a class.

"Normally a situation involving sexual assault is ultimately between two people in a room, but before we get to that point, somebody sees something that doesn't look right," Mrs. Rathbun said. "If we can prevent it before it gets to the point of the assault, that's the benefit."

To illustrate bystander intervention, here is an example of a situation encountered by one of Vandenberg's own:

One night, during his college years, Maj. John Roberts, the 30th Weather Squadron director of operations, had gone out to a popular bar with two of his friends. At the bar, he noticed Roxy, a casual acquaintance, a few tables over with two men he did not recognize. Roxy appeared to be clearly intoxicated.

"I could hear her slurred speech, since she was talking very loudly, and the two men were holding her up," Major Roberts said. "I could tell by their actions that they had less than honorable intentions with Roxy. They were very touchy, groping over her body, and making non-verbal gestures behind her back. It was obvious to me that they planned on taking advantage of her intoxicated state."

Unable to locate some of Roxy's known friends, Major Roberts decided to take action.

"I walked over to the group, put my arm around Roxy and in a very friendly and familiar way injected myself between her and the two gentlemen," said Major Roberts. "I asked her how she was doing and if she 'wanted to dance' with me. When the two men started to object I gave them a very stern glare and speaking only loudly enough for them to hear said, 'I know exactly what you two plan on doing and it isn't going to happen.' I then told them that Roxy was coming with me."

Major Roberts walked Roxy out of the bar and ended up carrying her back to her apartment, which was approximately 1.5 miles away. Once back at Roxy's apartment, Major Roberts put Roxy in her room and ensured her apartment door was locked before leaving.

Although there is no way to determine what could have happened if Major Roberts hadn't intervened, one thing is for sure - Roxy was grateful for his actions.

"Roxy called me the next day saying that she had remembered seeing me and wanted to know if it was me who took her home," said Major Roberts. "I told her what had happened and she thanked me."

In this particular case, Major Roberts executed the goal of bystander intervention - stopping an escalating situation between two or more people before the point of a sexual assault.

Although there is no concrete way to measure the successes of programs like bystander intervention training, the Vandenberg and surrounding communities can benefit from the skills learned by using those skills to shield other people from harm.

"Those serving our country, military or civilian, are loaned to us from their families," Mrs. Rathbun said. "We owe their families a debt, and a payment of that debt, includes caring for and protecting our Airmen to the best of our ability."

To sign up for a class, visit Vandenberg's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response section on SharePoint. To register, click on the date and class in the calendar to sign up. Follow this link for the calendar: https://eis.afspc.af.mil/unit/30sw/home/SARP/default.aspx.