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Stamp out sexual assault in April

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- This April, America and the Department of Defense (DoD) take a concerted stand against sexual assault as we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This annual event provides us with the opportunity to increase knowledge and promote prevention of this crime through special events and public education.

This year's theme, "My Strength is for Defending," is intended to highlight the fact that our mission not only involves national defense, but the defense and safety of the Americans who voluntarily risk their lives to defend our freedom.

Every servicemember, starting with senior leadership, must understand his or her duty to safely intervene and prevent the crime of sexual assault. Servicemembers have a duty to safely intervene when they identify behaviors that may lead to sexual assault. Sexual assault degrades mission readiness and is fundamentally at odds with the responsibility of the men and women in uniform to treat all people with dignity and respect.

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported violent crimes in America today. According to research, 82-84 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement. On average, 526 Americans per day reported being sexually assaulted in 2005 (calculation based on data from the Department of Justice). In fiscal year 2007, there were 2688 reports of sexual assault by military service members. Of those, about 2000 were unrestricted reports and 705 were restricted (confidential) reports.

Since 2004, advancements in reporting options have helped create a climate of confidence in reporting. In June 2005, the restricted reporting option was created. This option enables victims on active duty status to report the assault to the SARC or healthcare provider and receive the care that they deserve without triggering the investigative process.

Sixty-five percent of the increase in sexual assault reports involving military members can be attributed to the restricted reporting option. This alternate choice, coupled with enhanced awareness of sexual assault and vigorous training, has encouraged more victims to take a stand against their assailant.

DoD policies address sexual assault prevention, seeking to establish a climate of confidence in which:
· education and training create an environment of zero tolerance for sexual assault and the attitudes that promote it
· victims of sexual assault receive the care and support that they need
· offenders are held accountable for their actions.

Take an active stand in learning more about sexual assault and its prevention by participating in local SAAM events during the month of April. Your efforts could have long-term effects on your fellow service members. Prevention is the key. Make a difference.

For more information about SAAM activities, contact me at 494-SARC.