Acting against sexual assault our duty
April 21, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- April, as you may already know, is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Army leaders recently converged in Arlington, Va., to discuss our strategy in the war against sexual violence and harassment.
We have had a number of activities on post promoting awareness of this very serious subject. In our post newspaper, the deputy commanding general of Initial Military Training, Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, made a strong call for action to eradicate sexual assaults from the Army. Let me remind you of what's at stake as we position ourselves further along in the fight.
The goal continues to be to rid our Army of sexual assault as well as harassment by 2014. The four-stage program to eliminate sexual violence recently launched its third phase, which will naturally build on the first two stages and expand outside the gates where our Soldiers are actively involved in communities and schools.
The first phase to eliminate sexual violence and harassment was introduced in 2008 and dealt with educating leaders about the issues and securing a commitment from those at the top. In the second phase, the rally was for an Army-wide commitment for each Soldier to fight the fight against sexual violence.
Meanwhile, the Army's law enforcement and judicial element began to increase penalties against sexual assault crimes to show that we mean business. For example, an act of touching is now classified as a felony - the most serious of crimes. Prosecutors have received support as well. CID and JAG have added national experts to aid in the prosecution of sex crimes. At the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, there are now more examiners. Specialized training has been funded for our prosecutors, and a mobilized investigation team is in place to train all CID battalions.
A special victims unit handles sexual assault cases, reinforcing the Army's commitment to prosecute sex offenders. In general, there are a number of signs that the campaign is being effective. Sexual assault reports have leveled off in the past five years, following an initial sharp increase in reporting because of a corresponding emphasis on sexual assault awareness.
Make no mistake, the Army plans to continue taking aggressive action to create a culture of sexual violence awareness, with the cornerstone of our effort focusing on prevention. Since the inception of the "I. A.M. Strong" (Intervene, Act, Motivate) campaign, we have been working diligently to establish a climate of confidence within our ranks.
We must always remember that it is our duty as Soldiers to "intervene" if we recognize a threat to another Soldier. It is also our duty to stand up to our battle buddies and act, as well as to motivate others to take action under similar circumstances. We must be able to watch out for one another. It is our responsibility to check the behavior of ourselves and others because the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault starts with you. We must show that we will not tolerate behaviors that could lead to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Be sure to enforce the standards through your actions. This is all about good leadership and effective troop leading procedures. The prevention of sexual assault is not a female issue. We must promote how to speak in the workplace and know when and how to intervene. We must view the goal of preventing sexual assault as a lifestyle change and reward bystander intervention.
Each of you can be a change agent, so I am calling on you to take action. It is your duty as a Soldier to "intervene" if you recognize a threat to another Soldier. As we complete the final two phases of this program, I am confident that Fort Jackson will continue to stand tall and prevail.
Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!