Sgt. Heather Franke, 1st Signal Brigade recounted her personal experience as a survivor of a sexual assault in order to raise awareness and prevent incidents like hers from further occurring during the 2015 Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Kick-off Ceremony Apr. 1 at the South Post Chapel, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Franke vividly described how she was sexually assaulted while intoxicated and the depression and hardship she experienced in the aftermath.

"We should be encouraging our Soldiers regardless of rank to report sexual assault and harassment without any type of reprisal or setbacks," Franke said.

"It took a lot of strength and courage to speak," said Col. Maria Eoff, Yongsan Garrison Commander. "Your strength is inspiring and hopeful. I am very proud of you."

Eoff continued on to say that the stigma and silence of shame often experienced with sexual assaults is gradually going away due to a 51 percent increase in reports since 2012.

With over 160 leaders from the U.S. Navy and Army in attendance during the ceremony, Franke's request for leadership to take the issue seriously did not fall on deaf ears.

"Every Service Member at every level must know and understand and adhere to Army values in order to eliminate sexual assault," said Maj. Gen. David W. Puster, Eighth Army Deputy Commander for Sustainment. "We all have a role to play in protecting those who we love most ... Know your part. Do your part."

Puster also emphasized that this challenge is not limited to the month of April, but requires everyone to consider preventing sexual assault and harassment as a critical and daily mission.
The sexual assault awareness movement first began in the late 1970s by women in the United Kingdom called "Take Back the Night marches," and later carried overseas to both New York and San Francisco by 1978. By the late 1980s the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) polled state sexual assault coalitions to choose a national Sexual Assault Awareness Week and they selected a week in April and by the late 1990s it became a national month. The U.S. officially observed the first Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in April 2001, and since that time the month has been growing in momentum to prevent sexual assault.