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AF uses innovative tactics to tackle sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Capt. Genieve David
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
As part of an innovative initiative to reduce sexual assault across the Minot Air Force Base has partnered with the Gracie Academy to certify 100 men and women of the U.S. Air Force in the Gracie Women Empowered program, April 15 to 19.

In 2012, the U.S. Air Force saw a 30 percent increase in sexual assault reports ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. There were 796 reports filed, compared to 614 reported in 2011.

Air Force senior leaders acknowledged and have been focused on sexual assault prevention and response for many years. As such, several programs were created to address this growing trend to include having a sexual assault response coordinator at every base, victim advocates program, Bystander Intervention Training, and other resources to name a few.

"The goal for the Air Force is zero sexual assaults," Col. Alex Mezynski, 5th Bomb Wing commander said. "Hopefully our Airmen can utilize this as another tool to protect themselves from sexual assaults and encourage others throughout our force to learn techniques to defend themselves as well."

In an effort to bring awareness to the criminal act of sexual assaults, increase self confidence in potential victims and provide predator awareness strategies, the Gracie Jiu Jitsu family created the Gracie Women Empowered program. Rener Gracie has teamed up with former World Wrestling Entertainment's Eve Torres to teach a one-week intensive training program here.

"When we got the call from Minot AFB with the request to assist in reducing the frequency of sexual assaults in the Air Force, we were incredibly honored," Rener Gracie said. "This was the first time that we certified a group of instructors with the sole objective of combating sexual assault within the U.S. military."

While women make up a majority of sexual assault victims, the program is open to men as well in an 80/20 split to ensure the focus of the program targets those most prevalent to sexual assaults.

Upon graduation, course participants will be certified to teach core principles and techniques to other men and women throughout the Air Force.

Capt. Tyrone Bess, a Jiu Jitsu instructor assigned to the 5th Security Forces Squadron, began thinking of innovative ways to assist in the sexual assault problem the Air Force has been facing. He pitched the idea to leadership here and was able to organize and procure funding for this initiative.

"The Gracie family understands the significance of eliminating sexual assaults in the military and has graciously offered to conduct a Women Empowered Instructor Certification seminar for 100 members," Bess said. "As leaders in the Air Force, sexual assault is everyone's problem and this is a way we can help eliminate this horrible crime in our Air Force."