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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: 'We can make an impact'

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Most of us may readily say, "I am against sexual assault," or, "My personal circumstances and lifestyle aren't part of the culture where this can occur," or "I have nothing to do with it." We go to sleep at night knowing we would never commit a sexual assault. But we really do have something to do with it, and we can make an impact. 

Nationally, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is observed in April. I have signed a proclamation designating it as Sexual Assault Awareness Month here as well. This affords us the opportunity to increase local knowledge about this issue and to affect change in our culture where violence, such as sexual assault, will not be tolerated.

The Department of Defense theme this year for SAAM is "Sexual Assault Prevention ... begins with you." This slogan highlights our wingman concept by punctuating that prevention is every servicemember's responsibility.

I am particularly interested in having men step up and make this a man's issue. I want you to learn about it, speak out about it and volunteer in our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. For decades, women have been the voice for these issues but men need to be involved too. Both men and women will benefit.

We have heard statistics indicate one in five women are sexually assaulted. Approximately 80 percent of assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Further, they are often perpetrated by significant others, taking the issue into the area of dating violence and domestic violence.

If we expand the issue to all interpersonal violence, national crime statistics on violence tell an interesting story--a story we don't often hear. More than 60 percent of victims of violence are men.

I encourage the units at my installation to actively participate in SAAM by providing ongoing training. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program has a variety of training programs that can be tailored to individual groups. For more information, visit the DoD Web site at www.sapr.mil.

I strongly encourage everyone to make a concerted effort to increase your personal knowledge, stand up and speak out against sexual assault and let those around you know that you will not tolerate it. Your personal efforts will have long-term effects.