The Air Force Department released the findings of a Force-Wide Interpersonal Violence Task Force Nov. 9, which investigated the depth and scope of how Airmen and Guardians are affected by interpersonal violence. The results are available for download here.
After the Secretary of the Air Force created the Interpersonal Violence Task Force in 2020, the team examined a wide range of 81 behaviors along what is known as the “Continuum of Harm. To determine if the DAF provides safety for Airmen and Guardians, and provides needed support after experiencing any form of interpersonal violence.
Over a six-week period in the fall of 2020, the Task Force used a three-pronged approach to collect information from active-duty members, the Guard, the Reserve and the Civilian Air Force Department in using survey, administrative data and qualitative data. About 68,000 members of the DAF responded to the survey, which represents about 10 percent of the total force. In addition, 85 staff members participated in focus groups to provide direct feedback.
“Thank you to the brave airmen and guards who shared their stories with us. Thanks to you, we have gained vital information on how we can better protect and support our people, no matter where their experience falls on the spectrum of violence, ”said the Army Under Secretary. air Gina Ortiz Jones.
Of the approximately 10% subset of Air Force Department airmen, guards and civilians who responded to the survey, 54% indicated that they had experienced behaviors consistent with at least one type of interpersonal violence in the past two years. Specifically, 66 percent of women and 48 percent of men who responded to the survey reported experiencing some form of interpersonal violence.
In addition, most of the survey respondents who identified having experienced these behaviors did not inform any member of their chain of command, nor any civilian or military law enforcement officer. Reporting incidents to an authority, whether by the victim or others, ranged from a low of 17% for intimate partner violence to a high of 40% for hazing.
The elements of the survey also sought to determine whether respondents had experienced any of the 81 behaviors in what is commonly referred to as the “Continuum of Harm” in the two years preceding the survey. On the left side of the continuum, the survey questions included behaviors such as “put me down and humiliated” and “told obscene sex innuendos or jokes or shared sex stories.” On the right side, the survey questions included behaviors such as “intruding on my privacy by harassing, spying or stalking” and “pushed, pushed or slammed me into something.”
According to the report, the analysis showed that many victims either do not report the behaviors, or when they do, they believe that nothing will be done. The report also points out that most victims were not satisfied with support service agencies. On the other hand, command teams have generally indicated that they believe they have the resources, training and authority to deal with interpersonal violence offenses in their chain of command.
“We clearly have work to do to ensure that interpersonal violence is avoided,” said the secretary of the air force. Frank Kendall. “When that happens, we need to provide the necessary support to victims and deal effectively with perpetrators – of all types. ”
The Working Group identified a need to organize aid agencies to function holistically, especially at the grassroots level, in order to eliminate confusion and ensure consistent and coordinated support to victims. Responding to those findings, Jones announced in September that the DAF was taking steps to create an office of senior accountability within the department to address domestic violence, harassment and stalking.
“We are implementing real solutions right now because we know that behind all the measures are real survivors,” Jones said. “We are creating a network of interpersonal violence service providers that eliminates harmful bureaucracy and prevents survivors from unnecessarily sharing their trauma multiple times before getting the care they need. We need to better support our airmen and guards. ”
The Working Group made three main recommendations based on its findings.
– Perform cross-functional database review to improve knowledge and data sharing
– Pursue a one-stop-shop policy for victims of interpersonal violence
– Establish a cross-functional team to review barriers to reporting
Five other themes emerged during the focus groups, which provided recommendations to address barriers to reporting.
– Create a culture of responsibility
– Develop accessible leadership
– Extend restricted reports and provide third-party reports
– Increase education on policies and available resources
– Provide additional training on interpersonal violence
After reviewing the report, the Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr. thanked Airmen and Guardians for sharing their experiences and recognized the need for increased confidence.
“One of our main priorities is to create a safe environment free from interpersonal violence. It was essential to hear from our people so that we could make sure we understood how they are taken care of after experiencing interpersonal violence, ”said Brown. “Going forward, we need to build trust so Airmen and Guardians are more likely to report and get the kind of help they need.”
The chief of space operations echoed the need to improve support for airmen and guards.
“We need to make sure our Guardians and Airmen have the resources and leadership to make them feel safe and supported when reporting all types of interpersonal violence,” said General John “Jay” Raymond, Head of Space Operations. “Early identification and support are essential for mission and family preparation. ”
In response to the report’s findings, the DAF Special Victims’ Counsel program instituted a pilot program to expand the legal services and representation available to Airmen and Guardians who have experienced interpersonal violence. In addition, the DAF is taking steps to institutionalize a “hot no-go” or “no bad door” policy to address sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment and stalking. This concept ensures that anyone seeking help receives a warm hand between aid agencies, as the appropriate support and guidance within our organization is determined. Support service agencies will also ensure that victims and their families are supported from initial reporting through to resolution and after care.
The Defense Secretary’s Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military, which rose after the DAF Interpersonal Violence Task Force, incorporated many of the group’s findings and recommendations. working in its final report. The IRC report was released on September 22 and is available here.