Sexual assault awareness program takes theatrical approach

By Sarah Meyer: Freedom New Mexico

Cannon Air Force Base is taking a theatrical approach to educating airman about preventing sexual assaults.

In a play called “Sex Signals,” actors Kyle Terry and Amber Kelly of Catharsis Productions of Chicago portray common dating situations using stereotypes, lots of humor and audience participation in a partly scripted, partly improvised skit.

The actors demonstrated what could happen during a date between a stereotypically aggressive male and passive female during Tuesday’s performance at the base.

Terry portrayed a man who interpreted almost anything a woman said as sexual innuendo.

“I’m just holding a mirror up to the world,” he said.

Then Kelly asked him to portray an airman accused of rape. His explanation: “It’s not my fault.”

He explained what happened, saying the female in question did several things to lead him on, including inviting him to her room, drinking heavily, taking his shirt off, saying “stop,” but then calling him back.

The audience was divided on whether or not the scenario was rape.

The actors analyzed the situation.

“Over 80 percent of rapes happen with someone you know,” Kelly said.

If someone says “stop,” the other person needs to stop and get clarity or an explanation of what is expected, Terry explained. “If you’re not ready to have that conversation, you shouldn’t be having sex,” he said.

The situation also could have been prevented by the female having other people present, being in a public place and drinking less alcohol, Kelly said. The male also could have left when the female seemed unsure, she said.

Jean Masters, sexual assault response coordinator for Cannon, said she saw a similar performance during a Department of Defense conference.

“I thought this would be great,” she said. “We’ve had a better response than I thought.”

About 100 airmen signed up for each of the first three performances, but nearly twice that many showed up.

She hopes the airmen who attend will learn how to better handle sexually charged situations.

“I want to get ahead of the game,” she said. “I want to make them think before something happens so I don’t have so many cases.”

She said she doesn’t handle a lot of sexual assault cases on base but is aware that many cases go unreported.

The performance continues today and Thursday.