Air Force fights sexual assault with lip balm, hand sanitizer, breath mints

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month across the nation. How about a breath mint?

Lip balm? Hand sanitizer? Sewing kit? 

In the Pentagon, Defense Department officials have launched a massive public relations campaign to show they're serious about cracking down on sexual assault in the military, while raising awareness among service members. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recorded a message to the troops while DOD has expanded its victim-assistance programs, sought help from outside advocacy groups, and required sexual assault to receive attention higher up the chain of command.

And as with most DOD campaigns, folding tables and cardboard displays were set up in the apex between corridors 9 and 10, and promotional giveaways were handed out.

Every week there is some kind of promotional event at the apex -- whether to get your cholesterol screened, take advantage of DOD retirement advice, celebrate Black History Month, or remind you of your cybersecurity responsibilities.

This month at the apex, as well as in the Pentagon Athletic Center, in order to remind troops not to sexually assault each other, the Air Force is offering a lip balm tube with a label that reads: "SAPR Sexual Assault Prevention & Response; Air Force National Capital Region; 24/7 Hotline 310-981-7272."

The Air Force also passed out tchotchkes like a box of breath mints, which has a bold sticker on the cover that says "NO MEANS NO!" -- because nothing says leave me alone like fresh breath, apparently.

Or, military officers and civilian workers could try the 2.5-ounce hand sanitizer bottle shaped like an open palm. Printed on the bottle: "KEEP UR HANDS 2 YOURSELF," along with the telephone number for the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators 24-hour hotline.

Or, play catch around the Pentagon office using a mini foam football, always a favorite at exhibit booths. This one reminds troops "DON'T FUMBLE... GET CONSENT" and is printed with the same hotline phone numbers.

The mints come in a box wrapped in a trifold cardboard cover that asks "Are you at risk?" On one inside flap is a five-bullet explainer on "What is Sexual Assault?" On the other flap, "Minimize Your Risk" tips suggest that there's safety in numbers, that you have your key ready before you reach a car door, and that you stay sober -- or at least never leave your drink unattended. Another tip, from the breath mint package: "Match your body language to your words -- don't laugh and smile while saying, ‘No.'"

The package also explains what "consent" means and has a final pop quiz, teaching that if you have been sexually assaulted, you should not bathe or shower, presumably to preserve biological evidence.

Other trinkets included a pocket-sized flashlight; a sewing kit; and a small notepad and pen in a plastic carrying case.

Photo by Kevin Baron, Foreign Policy