WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of Defense declared April as the month to raise awareness of sexual assault crimes across the world.
Military leadership, almost in unison from across all services, has stated the severity of sexual assault and the zero tolerance they have for the crimes.
"This is my problem and this is your problem," said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. "Sexual assault is unacceptable and its roots need to stop at all levels; I can't tolerate it and you shouldn't either."
The DoD's theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is "Hurts one. Affects all. Preventing sexual assault is everyone's duty." It presents an opportunity for commands around the world to dedicate focused attention and training on the importance of eliminating the crimes.
Raising awareness about sexual assault assists in preventing the occurrence of sexual violence. It also stimulates discussion about sexual assault, thus ensuring that it is continually addressed and discussed within our commands.
Additionally SAAM showcases the services and resources available for victims of sexual assault to include medical care, counseling, criminal investigation support and victim advocacy.
"Through the use of special events and public education we are able to reach a wide audience on each level of the military community," said Alicia Witherspoon, Naval District Washington Sexual Assault Response coordinator (SARC).
At Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling's Community Center Complex, a team of SARCs and victim advocates tied teal ribbons and bows to trees, sending out the subtle reminder of reminding those who see them that April is SAAM and to take a stand to prevent the crimes of sexual assault in the future. One in six trees carried a bow symbolizing the one in six persons who have been a victim of sexual assault crimes in their lifetime.
Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful to include unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact or attempts to commit these acts.
A fiscal year 2010 fact showed that 46 percent of sexual assaults were alcohol-related. Due to it being a frequent facilitator of sexual assaults, it is important to mention that an intoxicated individual cannot consent to sexual activity because consent cannot be granted when a person is sleeping or incapacitated.
"Sexual Assault Awareness is everyone's responsibility," said Witherspoon. "Bystander intervention is being integrated into training for sailors and it is essential to changing the culture within the Navy [and DOD] about sexual assault. It is a multifaceted, aggressive and persistent approach designed to educate individuals on their responsibilities to intervene in situations of possible assault to prevent others from making poor decisions that could lead to a sexual assault."
SARCs throughout NDW and Air Force District of Washington are ensuring their visibility throughout the National Capitol Region during the month of April. Events on installations and in downtown Washington are planned to raise awareness of sexual assault to all Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and DoD employees. For more information call (202) 685-1182.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an important element of the readiness area of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working to aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, to support sexual assault victims, and to hold offenders accountable.
Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SAAM.
If you have been or know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault crimes, you may call the 24/7 victim advocate at (202) 258-6717 or the SARC hotline at (202) 767-7272.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.