by Airman 1st Class Andrea Posey
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
10/16/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- What
would you do if you saw someone you knew with a large black eye? What
if it was a stranger? Would you ask them if they were alright, where the
bruise came from, or not ask them anything at all?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Family Advocacy
team planned a secret event to raise awareness. They called it the Black
The campaign painted black eyes on volunteers. Then, they went about
their day as normal as a test to see who would ask about the bruises. If
prompted about the bruise, the volunteers gave out a fact card which
read, "Thanks for asking..."
Capt. Reed Reichwald, 1st Special Operations Medical Group Family
Advocacy chief led the even event which was planned to bring attention
to Family Advocacy's mission -- to prevent or reduce the incidents of
maltreatment on base.
"Unfortunately not all signs of domestic violence are as glaring as a
black eye," Reichwald said. "It is on us to be vigilant when we see
lesser signs or other indicators of domestic violence."
Reichwald said he was concerned with the reasons why Airmen do not react.
"We don't go out of our way to say something," he said. "Perhaps we're
embarrassed and we're concerned we might embarrass someone else or that
it's not our business."
Two volunteers were chosen to play battered women for the campaign.
First Lt. Erika Washington, 1st Special Operations Medical Group Mental
Health social worker, is new to the medical group, so people do not know
her relationship status, history or background. She traveled to various
locations all day while in-processing with a black-eye.
Senior Airman Skye Escalera, 1st Special Operations Medical Group health
benefits advisor, worked in the medical center with co-workers and
clients all day with a black-eye.
Throughout the day, Washington and Escalera ran into many people.
"The only people who actually came up to me were the people I worked
closely with," Escalera said. "But a lot of people in the clinic would
walk by me and just keep going, trying not to make eye contact. For some
people, it was like I had this infectious disease, it was really
However, some people did ask.
"A lot of people came in my office wanting to beat my husband up," she
said. "Some of my close co-workers were really concerned and got
generally upset about my face. I also went to the child development
center and everybody there was automatically like, 'Are you ok?'"
Washington said her experience was completely different.
"It was very interesting because yes they knew something was wrong," she said. "I could tell that they were very uncomfortable."
Washington said she walked outside and looked people straight in the eye.
"They would clearly see me, pause but say nothing and I could tell they
were looking back after," she said. "The guy at the finance counter kept
asking me about finance issues. He didn't want me to go. He was very
nervous, dropping pens and looking at my eye. I wanted him to ask but he
never did. I was disappointed."
Washington said two people asked about her black eye.
"One was early in the morning when I was walking down the stairs," she
said. "A captain saw me and quickly touched my arm and asked if I was
ok. It made me feel good. It was very nourishing just to hear it."
The second one happened later in the day, Washington said.
"When I went to readiness, I got a response from someone I had talked
with last week who asked me right away if everything was ok," she said.
After the event, people said why they did or did not ask about the bruises.
Garren Medeiros, 1st Special Operations Medical Group medical records clerk, was one who asked about the black eye.
"Escalera works in my duty section and as I was walking passed her
office I noticed she had a black eye," he said. "I immediately felt
compelled to ask her what happened and if she was okay. We are
co-workers and I was just simply concerned about her wellbeing. I did
not jump to any conclusion as to what had happened to her; I simply
wanted to know if she was alright."
However, Senior Airman Naomi Griego, 1st Special Operations Wing photojournalist, did not ask.
"I guess I was reluctant to ask about what had happened just given the
environment where we were at," she said. "We were in a public place and
there were other people around, other women. If it was something of a
domestic dispute, I didn't want to put her in an uncomfortable position
or bring something up that wasn't for public information."
As the Black Eye Campaign came to an end, Reichwald said the medical group learned from the experience.
"We got a lot of the result we anticipated," he said. "We fully expected that lots of folks would not say anything."
Because of the cultural differences between the volunteers, there were
different insights as to why people did not report, according to
"Seeing is not always believing," he said. "I think when something like a
black eye is in your face and you don't know what to do with that
information, you almost un-see it. It doesn't fit with what you want to
believe so you un-see it or you rationalize it. [You think] it's not
your responsibility or someone else is going to deal with it."
Reichwald said he urges everyone to report incidents like this.
"Report it to a supervisor or a first sergeant within your unit," he
said. "If you can talk to the person and learn there is violence going
on, you can refer them to family advocacy."
For more information about domestic violence, call family advocacy at (850) 881-5061.