WASHINGTON — The Air Force has pulled a brochure circulated at a South Carolina base after a lawmaker complained about some objectionable advice to sexual assault victims — such as submitting to an attack rather than resisting.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who had complained about the brochure in May, on Tuesday released a copy of a letter she received from the Pentagon informing her of the Air Force’s decision and steps the services are taking to deal with the epidemic of sexual assault in the ranks, including reviewing its prevention material.
“We have reviewed the Shaw Air Force Base brochure you mentioned in your letter,” Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense, wrote to Slaughter. “We share your concerns over some of the materials presented, and the Air Force has withdrawn the brochure from circulation.”
The letter was dated June 20, received by Slaughter’s office during last week’s congressional recess and released on Tuesday.
The brochure contained some common-sense recommendations, such as checking around a car before entering and using dead-bolt locks and peepholes when home alone. It also included advice that the congresswoman described as victim-blaming and inappropriate as the military struggles with the problem of sexual assault.
“If you are attacked, it may be advisable to submit than to resist,” the brochure said. “You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attack has a weapon.”
The brochure also suggested that if an individual is accosted in a parking lot, “consider rolling underneath a nearby auto and scream loud. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car.”
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel. While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said.
“No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should ever be told ‘it may be advisable to submit than to resist’ in the case of a sexual assault,” Slaughter said in a statement. “I am cautiously optimistic about the Pentagon’s agreement to review all sexual assault prevention materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right direction and a small victory for victims.”