Prompted by reports of an increase in sexual assaults across the Department of Defense, the Army Contracting Command hosted a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response stand down at the Missile Defense Agency Auditorium, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., June 10 to raise awareness among the command's Soldiers, civilians and contractor workforce.
The day-long stand down was part of a mandate issued by the DOD leadership to raise awareness of sexual assault and to "change behaviors to safeguard the health of the force."
Initial concern was raised with the release of the Fiscal Year 2012 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military which reported an 11 percent increase from fiscal 2011. In fiscal 2012, the Army reported 1,423 sexual assault cases.
Nationwide attention was drawn to the issue following the release of the Kirby Dick documentary, "The Invisible War," which highlighted the alleged rapes of several military veterans and "the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes."
In a pre-recorded message to the workforce, Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols, ACC commanding general, emphasized that sexual assault and sexual harassment will not be tolerated. At the time of the stand down, she was attending the 6th Annual I. A.M. Strong Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Summit held on Joint Base Andrews, Md.
"It has no place in the United States military, and certainly not in the Army Contracting Command," she said. "It is a violation of everything that we stand for and it goes against the values we defend. Let there be no misunderstanding -- anyone who commits this crime will be held appropriately accountable."Sexual harassment and sexual assault have a devastating impact on the victim and tears at the moral fiber of our units and our offices, degrading our readiness and productivity," she said. "Together, our mission is to prevent and respond to this crime in order to enable military readiness and productivity, and to reduce -- with a goal to eliminate -- sexual assault from the military."
After her remarks, "The Invisible War" documentary was shown to the 700-plus workforce in attendance and was followed by small group sessions and subject matter expert panel discussions.
"Success of this initiative depends on the daily, continual commitment of every single one of us to foster a climate of mutual dignity and respect," Nichols added. "We must create a workplace environment where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored.
"We need to look around and ensure our environment is free of any offensive material. Know what correct behavior is as we interact together. Be on the lookout for behavior that violates our promise to have a safe, no-threat workplace," she said. "Take appropriate action if someone is being harassed or assaulted. If a crime does occur, we need to be there with compassion and support for the victims. Do what is right!"