Army kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April 5, 2013
By J.D. Leipold
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 5, 2013) -- The Army launched its official recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the courtyard of the Pentagon, April 5, with the announcement of a new theme meant to convey how the service hopes to eradicate sexual assault within the ranks.
"We own it, we'll solve it, together," said Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, reciting the new theme. He served as keynote speaker at the kick-off.
Bromberg explained the new theme is designed to strengthen the collective moral and ethical commitments of Soldiers, in keeping with the Army values and the warrior ethos, to preserve the respect and the dignity of every Soldier, civilian, and family member in the Army.
According to G-1 statistics, there were 1,695 cases of sexual assault in the Army in 2011. Of those assaults, more than half were Soldier-on-Soldier. Nearly half of the assaults occurred on weekends, with 84 percent of the victims in the rank of E-4 and below, and 59 percent of the alleged offenders also being E-4 and below.
Since September 2008, when the Army launched its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, the service has sought to reduce the stigma of reporting and increase prevention, investigation and prosecution capabilities while ensuring protection of sexual assault survivors from retaliation and threats. Bromberg said the Army would continue to enhance training and increase resources while refining response capabilities.
"Every Soldier should see sexual assault as a personal issue, an issue that he or she needs to be involved in," he said. "This culture must have consistency from basic training to the halls of the Pentagon. We simply cannot have Soldiers preying on each other, because this rips apart the bonds of trust that hold our Army together in both war and at peace."
The general noted that over the last year the Army had achieved "great progress" toward institutionalizing the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program, known as SHARP, program. He also said strides had been made in reducing the stigma associated with reporting violent crimes. He added that commanders are seeing significant growth in sexual assault reports.
"Sexual assault is the most unreported crime in the nation, and this increase or what we call a propensity of Soldiers to report is critical to ensure commanders can provide the support to the victims while holding offenders appropriately accountable," Bromberg said. "In 2012, we implemented a policy to have two full-time personnel as sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates at every brigade level."
The Army increased investigation and Judge Advocate General, or JAG, capabilities by adding 20 special investigators, 19 special victim prosecutors and five Trial Counsel Assistance Program attorneys to improve processes, training and offender accountability. JAG will add four special prosecutors before the end of September.
"Training is also essential to everything we do as a key component of our SHARP program," Bromberg said. "With more than 30 SHARP life-cycle training courses, we continue to improve our force's capability to address this issue at the very base of our Army."