ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The APG community kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a ceremony at the Post Theater April 2. This year's SAAM theme is, "We own it ... we'll solve it ... together."

The event was attended by APG senior leadership and Director of DoD sexual assault prevention and Response Office Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton.

Roxanne Conley of the Garrison Equal Employment Opportunity pffice gave the opening remarks. She said the way to prevent sexual assault is to talk about it.

"The most powerful tool we have in prevention and awareness is the spoken word," she said. "Raising awareness, showing support and educating others will lead to fewer sexual assaults."

Conley added that it was not too long ago that people felt too ashamed to talk about sexual assault.

"Sexual assault touches every aspect of your life, it is not just something you can walk away from," she said. "We are fortunate that now we are encouraged to come forward and to speak out."

APG and CECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell said that senior leadership is fully committed to standing up against sexual assault.

"One incident is one too many," he said. "Treating people with dignity and respect is what it is all about."

The guest speaker was the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright. She said that sexual assault is not condoned in the Army. She challenged the audience to stop it and report it when they see an individual acting inappropriately.

"We have a sexual assault problem, we need to jump on top of it and solve it. It is incumbent on all of you to do that," she said.

The event included a video presentation of "Band of Brothers and Sisters" and the national anthem, sung by Darrell D. McCarthy, from JPEO-CBD. The invocation was given by the installation chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jerry Owens.

The SAAM events prior to the theater celebration included a 5K Run/Walk that started 6:30 a.m. at Fanshaw Field. About 300 Soldiers and civilians participated, including Ferrell and Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Kennis Dent. Afterward, participants signed the "Pledge to Intervene-Act-Motivate" board and then moved across the street to the Athletic Center field where they formed a Human Ribbon for a photo shoot. Many participants wore teal or like-colored clothing; the official SAAM color to support the victims of sexual harassment and violence and help raise awareness.
Team APG will be hosting several SAAM events throughout April. To receive the calendar of events e-mail 1st Lt. Raisa Velez, raisa.v.velez.mil@mail.mil.

To report a sexual assault, call the DoD Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247.