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April: Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (Graphic/James Rainier)

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (Graphic/James Rainier)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing, along with installations at air force bases in every corner of the world, will be observing Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month throughout April.

Here at Team Patrick-Cape, we will be conducting a SAPR Stand-Down Day April 18, designed to increase awareness of this horrific act and to identify those who would do such heinous acts to one of their own.

In truth, I don't know if there is anything worse than a "blue-on-blue" assault. It literally sickens me that we have people in our Air Force who would violate other Wingmen in this way.

And the numbers don't lie; we are hurting ourselves.

For example, in Fiscal Year 2013 the Air Force had a total of 1,047 sexual assault reports. That's up 790 reports from FY 2012, for an increase of 40 percent.

Some would say one reason the numbers are up is because Airmen around the Air Force are more comfortable reporting and have more confidence in their leadership to take a proactive approach.

That may be true, but even one sexual assault is one too many in my eyes.

Our commander-in-chief agrees, and he said so earlier this year.

"When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they were raped, that's a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure," said President Obama.

Let me say this: All 45th Space Wing commanders will communicate and set very clear standards of behavior, and will take swift and visible disciplinary actions against all inappropriate behaviors.

They will also be sensitive to victims, ensure victims are believed and not blamed, and actively establish climates of dignity and respect throughout their commands.

But even that is not enough to turn the tide against this wave of incidents.

We need the entire Shark Team to get behind this and join the fight against sexual assaults.

So I ask all of you to confront inappropriate behavior, intervene when necessary and hold peers accountable.

Team, this whole topic really is a cancer eating away at the very fabric of our Air Force culture.

We can fix this like we do all things -- together.

I have never needed you more.

Stay focused Sharks!