By Bryan Ripple, Public Affairs Officer Defense Equal Opportunity Management InstituteMay 20, 2014
5/19/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, Director of the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, visited the 45th Space Wing recently, to meet with sexual assault first responders and others involved with the SAPR program.
During his visit he spent time at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute and learned more about the institute's education, training and research capabilities.
"I'm proud of the fact that I am part of a profession that has a place like DEOMI where individuals can get the skills that will make them more effective in the human relations enterprise," Snow said. "The programs and courses available at DEOMI help leaders learn more about themselves and more about their organizations by learning how to understand others better."
Each service works to instill values consistent with establishing an environment that values dignity and respect in an organization. In order to enforce these values, the general discussed the importance of bystander intervention, which he described as being aware of your environment and taking appropriate action if you see or hear something that isn't right.
In some cases the appropriate action may not be to confront the individual directly, but to talk to someone else, whether it is a friend, another leader in the organization, or someone outside of the organization. All personnel have a role in preventing or responding to a sexual assault.
"When I think about stepping up to do the right thing, I think about courage," Snow said. "Social courage is something that is critical to eradicating sexual assault. When you walk by something you know is not right, and you ignore it, then you have essentially contributed to a standard that is not consistent with our values. Social courage is having the guts to step up and stop it when an individual sees inappropriate or illegal behavior. Social courage is also showing empathy and support for those being wrongfully mistreated regardless of the perceived or real social costs."
Leaders can make a difference in the fight against sexual assault by setting the right standards and vigorously enforcing expectations. Specific examples include: treating all reports of sexual assault with the utmost seriousness, protecting the privacy of survivors, allowing survivors to take control of their means of recovery, protecting victims from retaliation, and demonstrating social courage regardless of the perceived cost.
The general discussed that the DOD Sexual Assault and Response system is victim focused. Some of the recent changes to the program have come about as a result of feedback from survivors of sexual assault. Throughout the past two years, the department has implemented a number of program enhancements to improve its victim response; to include professionally certifying Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and SAPR victim advocates, providing legal representation for victims throughout the military justice process, and enhancing oversight of a commander's ability to instill a safe unit climate.
"We have taken steps to raise the bar of sexual assault victim advocacy in the DOD by ensuring all sexual assault victim advocates and response coordinators are equipped to provide professional and informed advocacy services," Snow said. "This program is administered by the National Organization for Victim Assistance and ensures our victim advocates and response coordinators meet national certification standards. Victims can be confident they have access to professional victim advocates and will be treated with dignity and respect throughout their recovery."
Snow also spoke about recent enhancements to the DEOMI organizational climate survey that is used by commanders in all military branches to proactively assess critical organizational climate dimensions that can impact the organization's readiness. Part IV of the DEOCS is dedicated to the sexual assault prevention and response climate within the unit. When administrated properly, the survey can be an effective tool to identify where these behaviors persist or are perceived to be tolerated giving commanders the information they need to take corrective action.
"The changes made to the DEOCS will help us eradicate sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military," said Snow. "We know that sexual assaults occur in environments where crude and offensive behavior, unwanted sexual attention, coercion, and harassment are tolerated - and the DEOCS is a way for troops, whether victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault, or as bystanders that have observed inappropriate behavior in the unit, to bring these issues to light in a confidential and anonymous manner."
Earlier this year, Secretary Hagel directed the secretaries of each service to establish a special victims' advocacy program to provide legal advice and representation to victims. As a result, the department created the Special Victims Counsel program which offers legal consultation and representation to victims of sexual assault throughout the justice process. So far, more than 185 attorneys are directly supporting victims across the armed forces.
"I want every victim of this crime to know how the SAPR program works and what actions they should take if they experience a sexual assault," he said. "I continue to encourage victims to reach out to their SARCs and SAPR VAs. They can help access support services as well as legal representation, and ensure that victims understand reporting options and are equipped to make an informed decision throughout their journey of recovery."