FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence are real issues that are troubling Army officials.

It is an opportunity for the Army to re-emphasize its ongoing commitment to eliminate sexual harassment and assault. It has been well publicized that sexual harassment and assault in the military continues to be a devastating issue. And what's sad, reports on this behavior filters through sources on Fort Wainwright.

Although the Alaska Post through its ongoing articles will show that much is being done to correct these problems and emphasize the values we - as Department of Defense representatives have sworn to uphold are firmly in place.

At the same time it is important that our readers realize these problems exist and the statistics are extremely disturbing. For Soldiers and support staff who have volunteered and vowed to right the wrongs, we must take a serious stance and do whatever we can to be responsible law-abiding citizens. Soldiers, regardless of gender, must always look out and watch out for others.

By upholding Army values and a core belief of decency, United States Soldiers have chosen to protect freedom; , not perpetrate evil. As George Orwell once said, "we should visit violence only on those who would do us harm." Friends don't let friends drive drunk, and friends don't let friends harm and victimize one another.

The military is radically changing the way it handles sexual abuse in particular by expanding access to treatment and toughening rules for prosecution, but the reported incidents remain truly horrible.

While researching this topic, I ran across a few stories regarding behavior that is inexcusable. In a Time magazine Magazine article dated March 8, the reporter described female Soldiers deployed overseas who stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night or the Soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette and was afraid to report it for fear she'd be demoted for having gone out without her weapon.

"There are 200,000 active duty women serving alongside their band of brothers," which was reported by Katie Couric in March 29 CBS news report, "but one in three female Soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world. " There must be a ZERO tolerance for this kind of behavior. Anything less is unacceptable.

Nearly every news organization has found someone people willing to tell their stories. All were extremely disheartening and be found anywhere you search for stories on sexual abuse in the armyArmy. The pages are loaded with the voices of female Soldiers, wives, girlfriends and daughters who suffered the abuse, felt the pain and continue to feel the grief that they had not only been violated by someone they trusted, but often feel betrayed because the appropriate justice has not been delivered.

Although the quotes, blogs and stories are abundant, here are only a couple excerpts:
Marian was repeatedly raped, sodomized and beaten by Soldiers she once trusted. They urinated on her, burned her with cigarettes and threatened to kill her if she told.

The scene where Constance lay dying was so gruesome the first police officer in the room exclaimed, "Oh, my God." Her boyfriend, a sergeant who had returned from Kuwait, confessed to detectives that he had been stressed and worried that she had been unfaithful.

And it's not just women; CNN reported a story about a male Soldier who was raped by a noncommissioned officer in charge of a medical unit while he was recovering from a parachute accident.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, deputy chief of staff of the Army for personnel, G-1, spoke at the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention summit recently and urged commanders to help stop the crime. Bostick said, "Sexual assault not only hurts its victims physically and emotionally, it tears at the moral fiber that gives our Army, our team, its strength."

The Department of Defense recently released an annual report showing an 11 percent increase in reports of sexual assault in the military over the past year, including a 16 percent increase in reported assaults occurring in combat areas, principally Iraq and Afghanistan. The report stated that there were 3,230 reports of sexual assault filed involving service members as either victims or assailants during the 2009 fiscal year.

"One sexual assault is too many," said Kaye Whitley, the director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention response office said, . "One sexual assault is too many." Although reports included assaults on service members by service members and by civilians on service members, "The majority, 53 percent were assaults by service members on other service members. Eighty-seven percent were male against female, while 7 percent were male on male," she said. "The typical case," Whitely said, "was an assault by an 18-to-25 year-year-old junior enlisted service member on a woman, with alcohol involved." In the report, sexual assault was defined as rape, sodomy and other unwanted sexual contact, including touching of private parts. (Is it Whitley or Whitely')

The Pentagon estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the sexual assaults go unreported. A Government Accountability Office report concluded that victims stay silent because of "the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, ridicule; and concern that peers would gossip." In a recent Time magazine Magazine article on the subject, the GAO stated that more than half feared they would be labeled troublemakers. They worry they'll be removed from their units for their own "protection" and talk about not wanting to undermine their missions or the cohesion of their units. In a special set of hearings in the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Jane Harman, congresswoman from Calif. said, "A female Soldier on in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow Soldier than killed by enemy fire."

Incidents are chronicled in stories reported in the New York Times, Time Magazine, CNN, CBS News, Amnesty International Magazine and most recently has focused more attention on domestic violence related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are stories of military wives who have been strangled, shot, decapitated, dismembered or otherwise murdered when the terror of war has been brought home.

Fortunately it is not something that is being swept under the rug, candy-coated or understated. The Army is aggressively addressing these issues and we, as Soldiers and the supporters of Soldiers, desperately need to make the change. If you are guilty perpetrating such a heinous crime, taking your temper to an uncontainable place or just turning a blind eye to injustice, you are disgracing the Army and the honor of every Soldier.

Like many veterans, patriots and Americans, we are extremely proud of our Soldiers and that's the way it should be. It hurts when we are embarrassed by them. But, mostly, my heart aches that there are those who do not demonstrate control, live by the standards they have sworn to uphold, and are hurting their fellow Soldiers and others.

This is only the second topic I've tackled as the Alaska Post editor and although this one is tough, I feel passionate about it. and together Together we need to address the enemy within, so that's what I'm talking about.