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Los Angeles AFB launches "Thanks for Asking" campaign

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sarah Corrice)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sarah Corrice)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB, such as Staff Sgt. Justin Gagnon from SMC's Contracting Directorate were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joseph Juarez, Sr.)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB, such as Staff Sgt. Justin Gagnon from SMC's Contracting Directorate were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joseph Juarez, Sr.)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB, such as Maj. Kristene Harris, 61st Medical Squadron clinical social worker were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joseph Juarez, Sr.)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To raise awareness about an issue that affects all, the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., launched a Thanks for Asking campaign, Oct. 21. Military and civilian volunteers of various ranks, ages, genders and job descriptions at Los Angeles AFB, such as Maj. Kristene Harris, 61st Medical Squadron clinical social worker were moulaged via makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joseph Juarez, Sr.)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- To raise awareness about the issue that affects all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses, the 61st Medical Squadron's Family Advocacy Program launched a "Thanks for Asking" campaign at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Oct. 21 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
 
Fourteen military and civilian participants of various ages, genders and job descriptions on base were given moulage makeup to resemble real injuries and asked to assess how bystanders responded to their injuries.

According to Maj. Kristene Harris, 61st MDS clinical social worker, the social experiment was conducted by volunteers who met at an undisclosed location. The fake injuries ranged from a small black eye, choke or strangulation mark or a large facial bruise; all injuries were in various stages of healing. The campaign was purposely kept quiet to make it as realistic as possible. The volunteers worked in high traffic areas all over the base and were asked to go about doing their day-to-day job.

This is the second year the Family Advocacy Program has done this campaign. The objective is to raise awareness about domestic violence and educate the community on available resources to prevent domestic violence and intervene when it occurs.

"If approached by bystanders, our volunteers were told to tell the individuals "thanks for asking," and the volunteers could explain the makeup was part of an awareness campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month," said Harris. "We also provided them with a card to hand the individual that had facts and resources with contact numbers for additional information."

After the campaign, participants were asked to provide feedback on their experiences.  Many shared their stories, which included both positive and negative encounters.

"I was relieved that people who barely knew me cared about my well-being," stated one of the volunteers. Other volunteers stated how they felt appreciated that bystanders cared and were concerned about their injuries.

In those cases where the injuries were ignored, the volunteers were disappointed by how many bystanders saw them and just walked away. Some felt embarrassed and judged; like the bystanders were looking right through them. Overall, it felt uncomfortable to talk to someone and they would just ignore their injury.

"The campaign feedback from the volunteers is consistent to how society reacts to domestic violence issues. As a culture, we tend not to get involved for various reasons, but as a military family we should," said Harris. "I think one of our volunteers said it best: 'I can understand strangers not wanting to insert themselves in people's personal lives, but it needs to be done.'" 

The base clinical social worker recommends that if you suspect a person is a victim of domestic violence, ASK what happened. Don't be afraid, but get involved. Start with "Hey what happened? Are you OK?" Express concern for them. You may be the only one willing to help. If bystanders don't feel comfortable approaching the individual, don't just walk away hoping someone else will intervene. Alert your supervisor, first sergeant, commander, Family Advocacy representative, chaplain or chain of command.

"I had mixed emotions as I went to wash off the makeup," said Harris. "I thought about how easy it was to just come home and wipe away the "injury," but not everyone can do that.  I was truly touched by those who asked and one person in particular who took extra time to search my face and determine if I was lying. It's important to me to be that person in someone's life."
 
"I also thought about all the injuries we couldn't create, the ones that are covered by the uniform, or because they are internal; injuries of the heart, soul and mind," Harris added. "Remember, not all injuries are visible! Emotional and psychological abuse can have a significant effect on a person which doesn't provide an obvious visual cue. Get to know those around you and show genuine care and concern for their well-being."
 
Domestic violence can be physical, emotional and sexual in nature and is an equal opportunity scourge - no one is immune. Be a Wingman and take care of each other.