‘Stepping Forward’ to prevent sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Denis R. St. Jean, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), 103rd Airlift Wing
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) is recognized in April by both civilian and military communities. With that in mind, I’d like to highlight a few initiatives here in Connecticut and across the DoD.

Each year the DoD releases a new theme. As stated on sapr.mil, the United States Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website, “The Department of Defense observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault and requiring a personal commitment from all service members.”

The theme for 2023 is ‘STEP FORWARD. Prevent. Report. Advocate’. This new theme is a call to action for individuals at all levels of the Department of Defense to use their personal strength to advance positive change in preventing sexual violence. We ask that you join us in taking a "Step Forward" and highlighting the power of acts that can bolster prevention, increase reporting, and promote advocacy for a safer DoD Community.

What could those acts look like?  We all have personal barriers that might make it difficult to step forward.  What can we do to overcome those barriers?  We, as a community of Soldiers and Airmen, owe it to each other to promote a culture where individuals feel safe from sexual violence and supported if they choose to come forward.

I’d also like to highlight the Men’s SAPR Campaign. According to a statement released by the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office, the campaign “focuses on sexual assault experienced by male service members and addresses the personal impact and negative effects on readiness and unit cohesion when sexual assaults occur. The campaign also provides vital education and access to important resources to both SAPR professionals and victims of sexual assault. The campaign is an initiative developed based on the "2016 DoD Plan to Prevent and Response to Sexual Assault of Military Men”.

“All Service members deserve to work and live in a respectful, inclusive environment while serving our nation. While this campaign is focused on sexual assault of male Service members, it is inclusive of all Service members affected by sexual assault or at higher risk of sexual violence.  This includes the experiences of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ Service members.” (https://www.sapr.mil/mens-sapr-campaign); Powerful acts of Courage can fuel change (https://www.sapr.mil/mens-sapr-campaign)