An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | April 16, 2012

Shining a light on sexual assault

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

It was a Saturday night in the dead of summer; the bar was filled with people who came to dance, drink and paint the town red through the streets of Charleston, S.C. In the midst of the crowd is Tech. Sgt. Matthew Hampton, 373rd Training Squadron C-17 maintenance instructor, who is enjoying the evening with his wife and friends.

Through the sea of faces, Hampton notices one thing that doesn't seem right.

A young woman separated from her friends, is drinking alone at the bar. Her words are slurred and her eyes are gradually rolling toward the back of her head. She seems moments away from being unconscious. At first, Hampton is alarmed the girl may have alcohol poisoning, but he became more alarmed when she was approached from the shadows by a seemingly sober individual.

"This bar was full of women," said Hampton, thinking back to that night. "However, this guy approached the one girl drinking alone because he was a predator and just like in the wild, the predator finds the weakest prey that's trailing in the back of the pack. For them, it's an easy kill."

Hampton watched as the woman lifelessly fell into the stranger as he lifted her from her bar stool. Her limbs dangled freely as the man drug her out to the parking lot.

"Her legs weren't even moving," said Hampton. "If you cannot make the decision to move your feet, you definitely cannot make the decision to leave with someone."

Hampton approached the individual in the parking lot.

"I didn't plan on fighting the guy or anything," said Hampton. "I'm not Batman. I don't wear a cape to bars and stop sex crimes. I sincerely just wanted to make sure the girl didn't need to go to the emergency room."

After stopping the individual, Hampton asked the woman if she was okay. She managed to tell Hampton she couldn't find her friends and didn't know the man she was potentially leaving with. Hampton refused to let the situation escalate any further and brought the girl safely back inside to find her friends.

"She was very intoxicated," said Hampton. "She was also someone's daughter, could be someone's wife, sister or mother and I'm confident she has an entire group of people that care about her."

"Guys generally cringe at the thought of their wife or mother being sexually assaulted," added Hampton. "For some guys, girls who are strangers are considered 'not the same.' Overcoming that double-standard is the key to preventing sexual assault."

Unfortunately for Hampton, he carries his loved ones' scars of sexual assault everywhere he goes. His mother, brother and wife were all victims.

"Taking a few moments of my evening to shine a light on that situation may have saved her from being a sexual assault victim," said Hampton. "Nobody deserves to feel the pain of sexual assault."

Sexual assault doesn't just affect one person. It affects countless others including relatives and loved ones. Hampton copes with his pain by teaching Bystander Intervention Training, hoping to prevent future cases of sexual assault and giving victims the courage to get the counsel they may need.

"Not a month seems to pass that I'm not lighting a candle in a church in honor of someone who died," said Hampton. "My brother was only 17-years-old when he took his own life. He was bullied, assaulted and harassed throughout school. What most people don't know is bullying can also be considered sexual assault."

Growing up outside of Kansas City, Mo. Hampton didn't have an easy child-hood. His mother, a sexual assault victim, physically abused him and his brother for years.

"My mother never dealt with what happened to her properly," said Hampton. "In those days, she didn't have anybody to counsel her through the experience. It changed her and as a result, she took all her anger of men out on her children, especially me."

"My childhood can never be recovered," Hampton added. "All I can do is turn the negatives into positives. My wife is another sexual assault survivor, however, through the proper counseling and simply having someone to talk to, the crime against her didn't steal her spirit."

Hampton has the unique outlook of experiencing the affects of sexual assault from a victim that bottled up her pain and a victim that got counseling. Today, his wife is a warrior against sexual assault, volunteering her time to counsel victims in the Charleston area.

When Hampton began teaching BIT, dealing with his past was almost too painful to relive. After speaking with Airmen about the dangers of sexual assault, re-opening the wounds left Hampton in tears and questioning his ability to continue teaching the class.

"After my first class," said Hampton. "I broke down in my truck. I didn't know how to find the strength to relive those pains. I kept thinking about my family, if someone would have stepped in and intervened when my mother was sexually assaulted, how different would my life be? Could a random bystander have saved my brother's life by simply speaking up at the right moment?"

"Asking myself those questions will never give me clarity," added Hampton. "The only way to get that is not refusing to bottle-up my pain, but presenting it and exposing it to Airmen. It's my life experiences and the life experiences of my family that fuels my resilience to overcome the past and hopefully, help someone in the future not go down the same road I was forced down. If I get through to just one Airman, then it was all worth it."

As a BIT instructor, Hampton encourages Airman to stand up against sexual assault. The mandatory class is intended to help Airman know when and how to intervene in questionable, intimidating or even explicitly dangerous situations.

It wasn't until a young service member approached him after one of the classes that Hampton realized the impact his lectures made. The service member thanked him for sharing his story and told Hampton about how his sister was a victim of sexual assault. The training helped the service member better understand how to deal with the situation.

"After hearing my story was helping others, I knew reliving my pain is necessary in order to help others," said Hampton. "In the past, people have said they wish they could be 'strong' like me. My wish is that they never have to find out how strong they are."

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For more information on sexual assault prevention, response or reporting procedures, or to become a victim advocate, contact your installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. Information is also available on the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website at