This April, the Department of Defense observes Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. While we must spread awareness and prevent these crimes each and every day, this is an important opportunity to remind ourselves why ridding our ranks of sexual assault and sexual harassment is so critical.
The values of honor and trust are the lifeblood of our military, and every act of sexual assault directly undermines those values. So too does every act of retaliation against those who report these crimes.
This year’s theme, “Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part. Do Your Part.” reminds us that we all have a responsibility to prevent these crimes and support the survivors – not only to live our core values and protect one another, but also to ensure our people can focus on the mission. This is an issue our force, both of today and tomorrow, cares deeply about. When I spoke at my high school earlier this week, a young student asked me about the issue of sexual assault and wanted to know what we were doing to ensure our military is “a safe and welcome place.”
That is why it is the responsibility of every servicemember to help make our military the last place a sexual offender wants to be. Together, we must assure an environment where sexual assault is neither condoned nor ignored; we must reinforce a culture of prevention, accountability, dignity, and respect throughout our ranks; and we must advocate for and staunchly support all who courageously report this crime.
Our nation looks to us to lead boldly on this front – and to care for our fellow men and women who bravely serve. Every single one of us must know our part, do our part, and keep doing whatever it takes to eliminate sexual assault in the military.