The Department of the Air Force has implemented a pilot program to measure the effectiveness of a new, more holistic approach to assisting survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and cyber harassment.
The six-month Integrated Response Co-Location Pilot, launched Aug. 1 at seven Air Force and Space Force bases worldwide, will centralize five support systems already in place, simplifying access and advocacy processes for airmen and guardians.
The sexual assault response coordinator, sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate, domestic abuse victim advocate, victim’s counsel and religious support team will all co-locate at the test bases, according to an Air Force release. By doing so, department officials hope to boost accessibility and support to survivors and prevent re-victimization.
The bases where the test is being held were selected due to the population’s diversity, expressed interest from the major command, and the ability to execute the co-location approach. They include:
- Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
- Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
- Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
- Hill Air Force Base, Utah
- Misawa Air Base, Japan
- RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom
- Offutt AFB, Nebraska
The effectiveness of this new, centralized approach will be measured and compared to the same support services at seven “control” bases that are not participating in the experiment.
“This is about supporting victims, plain and simple,” Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, who directed the establishment of the co-location pilot, said in the release. “Co-locating support services for victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of interpersonal violence is meant to help victims easily navigate available resources.”
The pilot program comes after years of gaps in domestic violence and sexual assault reporting in the military.
An Air Force Department study released in November 2021 found that tens of thousands of airmen, guardians and civilian employees had experienced psychological or physical violence within the past two years. Two-thirds of women and half of men who answered the survey — about 10 percent of the department’s workforce — said they had been impacted by workplace assault and harassment, domestic violence, bullying or hazing, the report found.
A Government Accountability Office study found 40,000 instances of domestic abuse across the services from 2015 to 2019, which drew the ire of members of Congress in May of last year.
The new program is one of a number of steps the service is taking to combat domestic abuse and sexual assault, according to the statement. The service has also made sexual harassment an offense in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and established the Office of Special Trial Counsel, which has the authority to prosecute the most serious crimes.
“We are committed to increasing overall awareness, accessibility, and support to survivors through physical co-location of centralized support,” said Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “Integrating these services allows us to enhance survivors’ healing and simplifies the advocacy process.”
Zamone “Z” Perez is an editorial fellow at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa, where he helped produce podcasts. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched humanitarian intervention and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.