SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault, hundreds of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command employees at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., attended a new, more interactive round of Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training Nov. 14.

The training is part of a Department of Defense-wide effort to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assaults by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the military family, including service members, civilian employees, and their families.

The training -- titled "Got Your Back" -- is endorsed by the Department of the Army and is presented by Catharsis Productions. The presentation provided a dynamic, interactive lecture using a mix of briefing slides, humor, and audience participation to explore scenarios in which bystander intervention is used to stop potential sexual violence and challenge victim-blaming attitudes.

Sharon Bryant, SDDC SHARP Program Manager, said the training has many purposes… "to educate our workforce, to provide a level of comfort in intervening, to decrease incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and finally to change the culture."

Bryant kicked off each session by welcoming the audience and introducing SDDC senior leaders. During the sessions, William H. Budden, SDDC deputy to the commander, Col. Ines White, SDDC chief of staff, and SDDC Command Sgt. Maj. Cedric Thomas took time to convey the purpose of the training and explain why the training is important to SDDC and the U.S. Army.

"I am your battle buddy, and I've got your back," said the sergeant major. "Whether you call the person next to you your battle buddy, your wingman, your friend, or your co-worker, this training is about watching each other's back. This is a sensitive subject, but at the same time, it is a very important subject. Embrace it!"

The mandatory bystander intervention training is produced by Catharsis Production under contract with the Department of the Army. Bryant said SDDC is the first Army audience to participate in this Secretary of the Army-directed training. During each two-hour presentation, SDDC military personnel and civilian employees learned about the actions they can take to be better bystanders, utilizing practical intervention tools and the confidence to intervene in risky situations at work and outside of the workplace.

Catharsis Production presenters Brian Golden and Kristen Pickering kicked off the training with a discussion about restricted and unrestricted reporting options and the available reporting resources. They also introduced audience members to language that can lead to sexual assault (e.g. names used to objectify women and men); the "hook-up" culture; and bystander intervention.

Bystander intervention was presented visually as an octopus, or Blocktopus. According to the company's website, a Blocktopus is "a creature that effectively and proactively encourages accountability and steps into social situations when someone starts creeping on someone else. A blocktopus works to build a large community of blocktopi that challenge behavior and attitudes that do not support respectful relationships."

With the image of the Blocktopus up on the big screen, the presenters discussed four areas of bystander intervention, also called the four D's: Direct, Distract, Delegate, and Delay.

Golden explained that "Distraction" involves finding a way to distract a perpetrator long enough to remove the victim from the situation. "Direct" means stepping in and directly intervening in the situation; for example, telling the perpetrator he needs to back off. "Delegate" means getting someone else to intervene in the situation; someone who may be in a better position to stop the incident from happening, such as a bartender, a bouncer, a supervisor, or a friend. He said the fourth D, "Delay," is about supporting the victim after the incident has occurred. According to the company's website, "Simply saying 'Hey, are you okay? Can I do anything?' … illustrates that they are not alone and that you care about those in your community."

Following the presentation, Christian Murphy, executive director of Catharsis Production, said sexual assault is not only a military problem; it's a nationwide problem. He also said the fact that the military is confronting this problem is a good sign for the rest of the country.

On his company's blog earlier this year, Murphy explained: "As the vanguard of adopting everything from racial integration to seatbelt safety, history has shown that no other American institution can more dramatically drive a cultural and social shift of our entire nation than the United States military. If we as a culture are to be more successful in combating sexual assault, we could stop parceling off parts of the culture like the military and address the problems we have as a whole.

"Perhaps even one day, some of the successful strategies employed by the military to eradicate sexual violence could be used as models for other institutions and the culture at large."