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April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

Protecting our people protects our mission graphic for sexual assault awareness and prevention month

Protecting our people protects our mission

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

An American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Every 9 minutes, one of those victims is a child. It is also estimated that 18,900 service members experience unwanted sexual contact annually. (www.Rainn.org)

The Department of Defense has designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The civilian sector has also adopted this designation. This year’s theme is “Protecting our people protects our mission.” This theme cannot be emphasized enough. The major goal of this designation is to raise awareness regarding sexual violence, along with educating the population on prevention.

As we all are aware, April 2020 is significantly different than April has been in prior years. Due to the response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, additional precautions and restrictions have been put in place, which affect service members and many civilian dependents. This may lead to many feeling isolated and unaware of the resources available for reporting sexual assault or abuse. As we all work to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must not forget to continue working to ensure effective reporting of sexual assault and abuse. One step we can all take is to ensure victims of sexual assault and abuse are aware of the resources available to assist them, particularly effective and available reporting options.

Even during this time of social distancing and minimal manning, resources are still available for military members and qualifying dependents to report a sexual assault. It is imperative that victims are aware that restricted and unrestricted reporting options are still available during this time. Failing to properly advise a victim of all reporting options may prevent the offender from being held accountable or cause a lack of trust in the process, which could lead to less faith in the military’s ability to provide the resources needed for victim support. Ensuring we create a culture where victims are comfortable with reporting sexual assault allows victims to continue the healing process, enables the military justice system to hold perpetrators accountable, and provides the Air Force the crucial data it needs to continue striving to effectively and efficiently combat sexual assault.

Increasing effective prevention methods is another responsibility we share, and can come in many forms. While prevention education is often aimed at the actions of the potential victim, everyone has a part to play in prevention. Though sexual assault is rarely a public crime, bystanders can take small steps to prevent sexual assault from occurring. These steps could be as simple as ensuring someone gets safely home and away from potential perpetrators, or that someone is not left alone while awaiting their designated driver. It can also come in the form of being brave enough to report a crime knowing you may have also been engaging in minor misconduct, such as drinking while under 21 years of age.

If you or someone you know would like more information on the resources available to you, please contact any of the following resources for more information. Even with COVID-19 response measures in place, there is help available. Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.

Local Resources:

Joint Base Lewis McChord-McChord Field Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Helpline:
253-982-7272 (Available 24/7 for response.)

McChord Air Force Base, Office of the Special Victims’ Counsel: (202) 329-7219

Nationwide:

The Department of Defense Safe Helpline: (877) 995-5247

The National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE (4613)

(The inclusion of any resources in this article does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense.)