Defense Department officials announced today the release of the "DoD Plan to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault of Military Men," designed to enhance outreach to military men and increase efforts to help them recover.

Army Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said sexual assault destroys unit cohesion and threatens force readiness by eroding bonds of trust that make the military strong and effective. The DoD plan, she added, outlines the need to help all service members better understand the unique aspects of assaults against men and how to prevent them.

"Unfortunately, most men would rather be silent than report a sexual assault," Nichols said. "We are working to encourage men by emphasizing that warriors show strength by seeking help."

The plan's objectives focus on encouraging more men to report their sexual assault, expanding all service members' understanding of how men experience the crime, refining support services and health care to address men's specific needs, and creating metrics to track the plan's progress, SAPRO officials said.

Additionally, DoD has already convened expert working groups to develop implementation actions for the plan.

"We're listening very closely to our warfighters on this project," said Dr. Nate Galbreath, DoD SAPRO's deputy director. "Our ability to prevent this crime and remain mission-ready relies on male service members trusting us enough to disclose their experiences -- and our getting them the kind of help they need to recover."

Officials said plan implementation will begin during the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 and continue throughout the next several years. The DoD Plan to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault of Military Men is available online.

Members of the DoD community who have been affected by sexual assault can access 24/7, confidential, anonymous support through the DoD Safe Helpline, or by calling 877-995-5247.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)