Leadership Lessons: It's not just 'taking advantage'

  • Published
  • By Anonymous
  • 319th Air Base Wing
It was more than twenty years ago, and I had decided to go to a house party with friends. I made the decision to partake in a couple alcoholic drinks (I was underage). My low tolerance for alcohol and my drinking inexperience led to a drunken state in which I needed to "lie down for a bit." I had gone off to one of the empty bedrooms; my only desire was to sleep.

Another party goer had a different plan. He followed me into the room, locked the door behind him, and... well, you can probably fill in the next few steps. I began to yell for help. The man was trying to silence my calls and get me to "calm down" and submit. I continued screaming and, after what seemed like an eternity, help arrived and I was spared the full intended assault.

Twenty-plus years ago, as a not-quite-adult, I didn't consider it attempted rape or sexual assault or any of that. It was a different time and an event like this was considered being "taken advantage of." Do an internet search for the term and you'll see why this phrase doesn't necessarily fit the event. Let's call it what it was: attempted rape.

I like to think that society has come a long way in its views on sexual assault. When I was (considerably) younger, if someone was raped or sexually assaulted under the circumstances listed above, the immediate social response was to look at what the victim did to bring on the event. The implication being that the assault was a natural consequence of the victim's dress, location or reputation.

While you can argue that I contributed to my vulnerability, it certainly did not give someone the right to assault. Here's the reality: No matter what a person is doing or not doing, that person is not at fault if someone else commits a crime. I think we tend to look at what the victim was doing so that we can somehow convince ourselves that it couldn't be us - we'll never be the victims because we don't drink, we know self-defense, we travel in groups, and on and on... but you can take all the precautions in the world and still be a victim of a crime. That's why we need to be able to rely on our Wingmen to intervene when something isn't right.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That statement is often attributed to Edmund Burke, an 18th century Irish politician and philosopher. Though there is some dispute over whether or not Burke actually said those words, the sentiment is sound. We heard it during Maj. Gen. Martin's all call earlier this month - and it falls in line with the Air Force's Wingman culture.

Our Wingman culture tells us that we should look out for one another and help keep each other from making bad decisions (or from making bad decisions worse). Sometimes you just need to step in and help out - we do it to thwart DUIs, ensure adherence to safety standards, etc. We should also take this approach to prevent sexual violence.

We often know what wrong looks like. By taking pro-social steps, each of us can make a difference in the lives of those around us. We talk about being a Wingman pretty frequently, but our actions speak far louder than our words. At all levels, we need to "walk the talk;" we cannot allow ourselves to be the "good men" who do nothing.