HONOLULU - The attacker grabs you from behind, attempting to choke you.

After the initial panic moment where you freeze, you remember that you chose not to be a victim of sexual assault.

You scream to attract attention, attempt to break the attacker's foot, dig your hands in between his arm and your neck, twist to his side, so he is holding you in a headlock, turn your head into his ribs and twist out of the hold. Maybe you throw in a couple pops to the nose or some thumb twists for good measure.

April is the Army's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and a good time to ensure every Soldier, family member and civilian knows what to do to prevent sexual assault and what actions to take after you or someone you know has been assaulted.

"It is everyone's responsibility to 'intervene, act and motivate' others to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault," according to a 2011 Sexual Assault Awareness Month letter signed by Secretary of the Army John McHugh; former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey Jr.; and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler III.

Steven McLaughlin teaches a course, here, to empower women to move past the victim mentality and find the courage to fight back. He explained that one in eight women in Oahu is assaulted in their lifetime, but with only 30 percent of these crimes being reported, the number catapults up to one in four.

"I want women to know that physically stepping on a foot does a lot of damage. Emotionally and mentally, you can do this. You can survive and win a fight," he said. "Most people want to fight off an assault. They just don't know how.

"Your frame of mind has a direct effect on your survivability," McLaughlin said.

In 2009, forcible rape and aggravated assault rates rose 6.1 percent and 3.7 percent, here, according to the annual Crime in Hawaii report, published by the Department of the Attorney General, state of Hawaii.

"Protecting yourself is easier than you think, even if you think you're not that powerful," said Chiara Bonvini, a recent student in the Kupale Women and Children's Domestic Safety and Assault Prevention Course.

"Everyone should know how to protect themselves, especially young women," added Taimane Gardner. "I learned a lot more than I thought I would about how to protect myself."

Soldiers, families and civilians need to maintain situational awareness, at all times - especially in the places they should feel the most safe, while at work, in their home or while on post.

According to the acting secretary of the Army's Task Force Report on Sexual Assault Policies, 67 percent of the sexual assaults involving Army personnel occurred on post. McLaughlin added that 80 percent of all assaults in Hawaii happen in the victim's home.

Do you know what to do to prevent sexual assault'

Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right or someone's behavior is sending you red flags, react now, before it's too late.

For more information on this assault prevention course, visit www.kupale.org.

I. A.M. STRONG

Be Assertive
-State what you want or don't want.
-No means, "No." State it clearly with a confident voice and body posture.
-Match body language to words; don't laugh and smile while saying, "No."
-Watch out for warning signs or "red flags."

Be Prepared
-Travel with a buddy; there's safety in numbers.
-Plan your outings and avoid getting into a bad situation.
-Stay sober, never leave a drink unattended and educate yourself about date rape drugs.
-Walk only in lighted areas after dark.
-Keep the doors to homes, barracks and cars locked.
-Don't go anywhere alone with someone you don't know well.

Be Alert
-Trust your instincts; if a place or person feels unsafe, it, he or she probably is.
-Watch for signs of trouble.
-If you sense trouble, get to a safe place as soon as possible.
-If you feel you are in danger, attract help any way you can.

Page last updated Fri April 22nd, 2011 at 16:09