“Thank you for asking, KMC”

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
In the early morning darkness of a typical German October day, six Airmen gathered together to transform, if you will, as part of an an experiment. Groggily, they sat in a conference room, drinking coffee and preparing for how they’d spend their day. One decided on going to his duty section, another said she was just going to run errands. A third chose to specifically go to high traffic areas like the Base Exchange.

These six Airmen, who are assigned to units across the base wore makeup simulating fake injuries consistent with domestic violence scenarios. The Airmen were sent across the Kaiserslautern Military Community to see who would ask if they needed any assistance.

“We know how high a priority solving domestic violence is for our commander,” said Capt. Deborah Schaefer, 86th MDOS family advocacy officer. “[Brig. Gen. Mark August] made it clear that we all need to work together to eliminate it from our lives. This experiment, while it’s a small sample size, gave us the opportunity to see how our local community acts and reacts toward this kind of scenario.”

Each Airman left family advocacy with at least 10 business cards that featured the phrase “Thank you for asking,” as well as additional resources for people who asked about their simulated injuries.

More than 60 cards went out with the Airmen, they only gave 20 away.

Schaefer added that she wasn’t surprised by the results.

“We can make a few educated guesses based on the volunteer’s experiences and past relevant data,” Schaefer said. “People are often scared of confronting someone, particularly someone they don’t know, and of embarrassing the victim or even themselves. There’s also what’s called the bystander effect, where people will tell themselves, ‘Someone else has surely said something by now.’ Any one of these issues could have led to the low ask count.”

Several of the volunteers expressed they even had people whisper about their marks, or turn away after making eye contact. Even though the volunteers weren’t real victims, the loneliness some felt at the end of the day was real.

“By the end, I was staring people down trying to nonverbally yell, ‘Ask me how I’m doing!’” said Staff Sgt. Frank Padeway, 21st Operational Weather Squadron commander support staff noncommissioned officer in charge. “It was incredibly lonely at times.”

Schaefer said that examining bystander response was a unique opportunity which hopefully increases awareness and education. The goal was to lead to improvement in reporting processes. However, something they learned was also the need to increase sensitivity and empathy for potential victims.

"Our Airmen are our most vital resource and most valuable asset,” said August, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “When one Airman experiences domestic violence, we all suffer, and we all lose. We as the World's Best Wing need to step up to help victims, step up to stop potentially dangerous situations, and step up to speak up, even when it's unpopular or uncomfortable."