April 2015 marked the 14th observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
It is recognized nationally and internationally by military and civilian communities. In the late 1980s, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) led an initiative to select a designated time period to promote awareness.
In 2001, the teal ribbon was used as a national symbol, and in 2015, the DoD expanded the title of the month to include prevention - Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM).
The 2015 DoD SAAPM theme is "Eliminate Sexual Assault, Know Your Part, Do Your Part."
Solving this complex issue is every Airman's responsibility. We need our Airmen dedicated to this effort. Leadership involvement at every level and the initiatives which have been implemented have increased Airmen's trust in the system.
Active leadership is the key to eliminating sexual assault. At every level, leaders need to foster climates of mutual respect, dignity and inclusion of all Airmen.
The 2014 RAND survey determined that approximately 800 fewer active-duty Airmen indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in 2014 (2400) than in 2012 (3200). More Airmen made a restricted or unrestricted report over the same period. In 2014, one out every three victims reported a sexual assault, compared to 2012 where one of every six victims reported their sexual assault.
Retaliation of any kind toward a victim of sexual assault is unacceptable in the Air Force. Retaliation is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Air Force is working hard to ensure victims of retaliation feel comfortable coming forward and know where they can go for assistance.
Sexual assault significantly degrades our mission readiness as we must have implicit trust in one another. The crime of sexual assault takes an extraordinary toll on victims, units and the Air Force. Those who commit sexual assault break down this trust, inhibiting the health and welfare of our members and the success of our missions. The Air Force environment must be one in which predatory behavior is easily identified, bystanders feel compelled to engage, and where victims feel empowered to come forward.
Airmen from various backgrounds comprise our Air Force, and it is our job to instill in them our core values and provide an environment that allows them to flourish and reach their full potential. We must emphasize a culture of dignity among all Airmen. Commanders and supervisors must be held accountable for the climate they create in their organizations. We need commanders to be involved and truly know those within their command.
For more information on HQ Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program initiatives, visit the website at: http://www.sexualassaultpreventionresponse.af.mil/index.asp