GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE, Texas --
Teal ropes, also known as Students Against Violence Everywhere, are a part of Air Force culture, but their role is changing here on Goodfellow. With the new changes, the teal ropes will be able to help students even more thanks to additional training, and a stand against violence of all kinds.
The change from Students Against Sexual Assault and Harassment, the former teal rope title, to SAVE reflects the broader scope of the program.
“In 2013 the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office created teal ropes,” said 17th Training Wing Violence Prevention Integrator Donna Casey. “The main focus was sexual assault prevention. Within the last year there's been a lot of changeover in the sexual assault response coordinator office. And with that, it was decided to go in a new direction now that we have a position solely for violence. Now the focus is going to be sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide awareness and sexual harassment.”
According to Casey, last year approximately 60 percent of the SAPR caseload came from students that the teal ropes spoke with, showing just how effective the program was. Building off a strong track record, these new changes are aimed to provide options for the students and allow SAVE to aid students with more issues that they might have.
“Teal ropes are generally known to help people dealing with sexual harassment or assault, and act as a liaison between them and a Victim Advocate,” said Airman 1st Class Christopher Sagardia, 316th Training Squadron student and teal rope. “We listen to anything that they want to share, and we point them in the right direction to people who are professionally equipped to help them, anonymously if wanted. Now, thanks to the revamp of our program, people will know that we are available to help in more ways.”
According to Airman 1st Class Dajanae Williams, 316th TRS student and teal rope these changes are steps in the right direction.
“A lot of people were coming to the teal ropes for things that were not just about sexual assault, so we are going to be trained to help them with the things that they have problems with,” said Williams. “I think that this is a good idea because we will be able to be more beneficial to the base. That is what is important, being able to give back.”
New responsibilities and expectations are going to fall on SAVE because of the additional assistance and guidance they are able to provide.
“The teal ropes need to be able to explain and utilize all of the helping agencies, whether it's Equal Opportunity, Inspector General or SAPR,” explained Casey. “It's not enough to just help someone call EO, they're supposed to help get them there. Going to one of these offices can be scary to do by yourself. It's a lot easier to get help when you have someone else there with you for that support.”
While any student can join SAVE, there are requirements in place to make sure the students that wear the rope will live up to the expectations that go with it.
“They have to have an average of 80 or more if they're in class and to have passed their last physical fitness test,” said Casey. “We also have the military training leader check to make sure they are the quality Airman that we need representing the program. They also do the training with me. They have to take the tests, they have to do an interview with me and then also make them write a paper about why they want to be a part of SAVE.”
Once a student gets their rope, to make sure that they are able to serve students in the best way possible, they are required to attend monthly meetings and continue learning how to handle situations they may face.
“This is an ongoing training,” Casey continued. “When they first come into the program I give them a 30 minute training, then we have meetings twice a month. So the first meeting of each month I have an agency come and give additional training, like EO is coming in December, in January I'll have Family Advocacy come, and next month I can have the IG come in and give them another 30 minute in-depth briefing about sexual harassment and how to respond. If the student needs help and they don't know where to turn they are supposed to reach out to me.”
With help from Casey and training, students will be able to grow into ropes that will be able to aid their fellow students with many of the challenges that they face.
“I have a bit of experience with people that have dealt with sexual harassment,” said Williams. “At the time I didn’t know how to deal with it, but being a part of this organization is making me more comfortable with those situations and helping me help those who need it.”
Helping students through their problems is the mission of SAVE but Casey has another goal.
“I really want to see a culture change with our young Airmen, where you see less of the sexual assaults, the harassment, the violence,” Casey concluded. “We have SAVE out there setting the example.”