By Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, U.S. Army NorthApril 5, 2013
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 5, 2013) - "I am your sister. I am your mother. I am your friend, and I am your shipmate. I am a survivor of sexual assault." With these words Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alissa Ropicky told the story of the day in 2005 when she was raped by a fellow Sailor.
Ropicky told her story to military personnel from Fort Sam Houston April 3 at the Warrior and Family Services building where they gathered to witness the signing of the Commander's Proclamation on Sexual Assault Awareness Month during the base's Sexual Assault Awareness Month observance.
SAAM is an annual campaign to educate members of the military community on how to prevent sexual violence as well as educate service members, civilians and families on the difference between sexual assault and consensual sexual contact.
This year's SAAM theme is "We own it … We'll solve it … Together."
"While Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a great start to awareness, every month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month," said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Mayo, equal opportunity advisor, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). "As parents, friends, leaders, and role models we have an obligation to take care of each other. Preventing sexual harassment and assault is everyone's business."
The highlight of the ceremony was the signing of the Commander's Proclamation on Sexual Assault Awareness, which was signed by commanders from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It stressed the importance of supporting victims as they heal, holding offenders accountable, and implementing successful sexual assault prevention strategies by instilling a military culture that stands against any and all acts of sexual violence, emphasizing a community built on respect, collaboration and unity.
"We must support victims of sexual assault," said Maj. Gen. Adolph McQueen Jr., deputy commanding general for support, Army North. "Those who commit sexual assault wound our teammates. Predators must be held accountable and prevention is everyone's duty."
According to the Department of Defense's Fiscal Year 2011 annual report on sexual assault in the military, more than half of military sexual assaults are from fellow service members.
"Those of us who wear the nation's uniform need to treat each other with respect so we can focus on our mission instead of fearing for our safety," said Brig. Gen. Theresa Carter, commander, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio.
It has become clear across the military that supporting victims of sexual assault is a huge part of allowing the person to heal.
Navy Capt. Gail Hathaway, commander, Navy Medicine, Education and Training Command, who gave the keynote speech, said sexual assault violates the military's core values.
"As commanders, as leaders, as fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen, it is essential that we all live the core values of our profession of arms and treat each other with dignity and respect," she said. "Our victims and our fellow service members are depending on us. One of the key reasons we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to show our support for victims of sexual assault," said Hathaway.
In Ropicky's case, the support received from her command was vital to her after the assault because it was a key factor to her surviving the attack and staying in the Navy.
"The way your chain-of-command, and first-responders respond to a victim of sexual assault goes a long way in determining their success in overcoming their attack," she said. "My chain-of-command supported me throughout those horrible months as I went from legal appointments to doctor's appointments to therapy, and finally to the trial where I saw my rapist found guilty of raping me and another Sailor. This could have broken me but, with support, it has made me a stronger sister, mother, friend and Sailor."
To learn more about the resources available for victims of sexual assault, call; 1-877-995-5247 or go to www.SafeHelpline.org.