During this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month I've had the opportunity to attend several events that reflect the military's commitment to stand united to prevent sexual assault.

At one such event in the Pentagon, advocates from each service shared their experience and advice on combating sexual assault and how the issue affected them personally. The speakers and those attending signed a proclamation committing them to taking a stand against sexual assault.

This event highlights the benefit of the joint approach services are taking to stop sexual assault within our ranks.

Sexual assault is not an issue unique to any one service or the military itself, but something that the nation as a whole endeavors to stop.

We are collaborating across the services, and even in the civilian sector, and sharing our best practices to engage the entire military community in creating an environment where sexual assault and harassment are not tolerated at any level, from the commanding officer down to our newest recruits.

To set standardized DoD training requirements for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates, we created the Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program (D-SAACP).

Through this joint certification program the services work together to:
•determine, train and institute a set of core competencies for our advocates,
•create a uniform certification structure that facilitates inter-service collaboration validated through a third party organization, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA),
•implement department-wide oversight from the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

This certification program has elevated our sexual assault victim advocacy in the military. A Sailor, for instance, can be confident they have access to professional victim advocates and will be treated with respect and dignity whether they're attached to a ship or serving as an individual augmentee in an Army unit.

Building on the success of D-SAACP, we announced our plan to standardize our sexual assault prevention and response training for all service members and DoD civilian employees earlier this month.

Training in core competencies for all personnel begins early. Within the first two weeks of service, we train our recruits on the basics of our sexual assault prevention and response policy and ensure each service member knows the options and resources available to victims. This training is refreshed annually as well as before and after deployments.

We will continue to focus on this issue and share ideas, successes and experiences to improve every aspect of the DoD's prevention and response efforts.

It is our intention to add innovative prevention strategies, new approaches and to incorporate the best practices from each service to create a military where sexual assault and harassment is known to be wrong and unacceptable and to create command environments that foster dignity and respect for all.

Page last updated Tue May 20th, 2014 at 00:00