Veterans on SA Training in the Military: Juniper Alexander (Part 5)
For today's segment, Juniper Alexander was kind enough to answer our questions on SA training that she received while in the military. She also provided us with useful input on how she believes TUJ could create a more effective SA training program for the student body. Jun served in the Air Force for a total of 9 years.
Where did you serve and for how long?
I served in the Air Force for a total of 9 years in San Antonio, Texas; Monterey, California; New Jersey; Qatar; and Yokota Air Base [here in Japan].
What kind of sexual assault prevention training did you receive?
Over the years, the training evolved. First, we did computer based training. These trainings would show videos leading up to a sexual assault and had “what would you do in this situation” type of questions.
Our commanders would talk to us every couple of months but when sexual assaults became very severe, we would receive a talk every month. They would really drill it into us.
We would have yearly computer training, talks by a commander or our first sergeant-- somebody from a higher rank. Or, we would have civilians who were experts in the subject come speak to us.
How much did you retain?
I knew better to keep my hands to myself! For me personally, it had no effect. I knew not to do things and to not put myself in bad situations, like go out and drink heavily because you could make bad decisions in that state.
Mainly, they trained us to intervene, to not be bystanders. To intervene, or get somebody else. Either confront the person directly, or to get the person about to be assaulted out of that situation. For example, going up to a person who seems like a potential victim and saying “the bartender said you got a phone call!”
How often did you receive SA training?
They would talk to us on average, about once a month. We would have 5 minute segments about sexual assault and abuse. Before, it was longer. [Sometimes] 10 minutes, 30 minutes, and [even] hour long [trainings]--“death by PowerPoint!”
In each individual unit, we had a SA monitor who you could go to if you were assaulted or witnessed it. People could also go directly to the first sergeant, but that person was the middle person, the liaison for people who were too scared to go directly to their sergeant.
In what capacity did you receive this training? i.e. were you alone, in a group and if so what kind of group? Mixed gender, small, large, divided by rank or something else?
No split in gender. We were either in a big auditorium, or we went to a commander’s cell.
At certain points, training would be divided into ranks. This was mainly for NCOs (non-commissioned officers). We received extra training; what to look for in troops. For example, [to pay attention] if they’re acting abnormally or if they’re acting weird during work. The goal was to let people know that somebody cared. I looked out especially for the girls.
How helpful do you think the training was for you personally? How about for your peers?
All around me, the usual military complaint went around of “why do we have to sit through this! Nobody in our unit does anything like this!” Just because you think nothing happens, doesn't mean that it isn't happening. Shit flies under the radar all the time.
I’m not too sure about how impactful the delivery [of the training] was. People lose interest during PowerPoints; after 20 or 30 minutes, their minds are somewhere else.
The computer-based training wasn’t graded, the military just gauged the data. They didn’t start implementing LGBTQ scenarios until 2014 because "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) didn’t end until late 2011. Many people responded negatively to the new scenarios shown in the CBT where there would be an abusive husband pushing his husband around. The people around me would see that scenario and say that they wouldn’t intervene because it was just two guys! I also remember a bar scene where there was a hyper aggressive woman bothering men. I believe that 9/10 or 95% of sexual abuse is committed men on women, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen the other way around as well.
Currently, TUJ is promoting assault and harassment awareness in multiple ways, if you do not know these ways, please inform us. If you do, let us know what you think is working and what is not.
I’ve noticed the posters everywhere, especially the ones in the bathroom. They might not seem helpful, but I do know that repetitively seeing something can cause a trigger in your mind on a subconscious level. I think that’s good because when something happens, your brain goes “where have I seen that information before? I remember seeing it in the bathroom-- there are numbers I can call!”
Do you have any suggestions as to how TUJ can address SA in a helpful matter to the student body?
I’m not sure about how a university would do this in a safe manner, but perhaps a more interactive training, like [reenacting] scenarios, would be more effective. Of course, that may traumatize people who have been through similar situations, but that would bring a level of realism to these serious situations. Doing the scenarios blind would make people really realize how they would react if they were put in a similar situation: fight, flight, or freeze.
Also if possible, I want to see students get involved. Having a [Deputy] Title IX Coordinator is good, but having a trustworthy student to talk to about things like this, may be more comfortable for some students who don’t want to go straight to the faculty. The designated student(s) won't be professional(s), but could hook students up with resources and options. The designated student(s) would just need to be connected to the proper resources. Not everyone is going to run straight to the Dean or to the police.
Hikari interviewed Jun in person and would like to thank her for her contribution to this series.
Keep an eye out next Monday, for the final installment of this six part series!
Click here to read a little bit more about why we decided to do these interviews.