In 2011, the Defense Department received a total of 3,192 reports of sexual assaults. This was an increase over the previous year.
Despite the fact that the Defense Department continues to put more and more resources and attention to the problem, sexual assault cases continue to climb.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has charged commanders and leaders at every level to “fully understand the destructive nature of these acts, lead our focused efforts to prevent them, and promote positive command climates and environments that reinforce mutual respect, trust and confidence.”
In an effort to meet the Chairman’s intent, the garrison invited leaders in the Stuttgart military community last month to a viewing of the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War,” followed by an expert panel discussion.
The film, created by people not associated with DOD, features interviews with veterans from multiple branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who recount the events surrounding their assaults.
It was shown in an effort to heighten awareness of sexual assaults within DOD from the perspective of the victims and their families, and to provide important varying perspectives on the issue.
The panel of subject matter experts provided important background context and answered questions pertaining to our military community.
Several hundred personnel from various units attended and raised important comments and questions.
I believe that this day of dialogue, along with sexual assault prevention training, is vital to ensuring all DOD service members and employees understand what is and is not acceptable behavior.
This is especially important because there often is diversity of thought when it comes to what some folks consider acceptable behavior — a “joke” may in fact be sexual harassment according to DOD standards, and what some may believe is fair game with respect to intimate relations, may in fact be criminal.
DOD’s sexual assault prevention training leaves no room for ambiguity and puts everyone on notice when it comes to harassment and unacceptable behavior.
In terms of individual responsibility, clearly sexual assault would never happen in an environment where individuals maintain strict adherence to our professional code of conduct.
It’s vital that we all understand the importance of personal discipline and professional behavior — on and off duty.
Our responsibility as co-workers, battle buddies and supervisors demands that we stamp out any signs of demeaning or harassing behavior.
The end state for this event and all sexual assault prevention training is to work to execute the Chairman’s priorities regarding the Joint Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.
As the Chairman stated, “Sexual assault among service members is a problem we face together, one that can only be solved together.
“In doing so, we will keep faith with our military family — they should expect nothing less, and renew our commitment to the profession of arms — we should demand nothing less.”
Editor’s note: The views, opinions and statements expressed in “The Invisible War” are those of the individual participants or producers and did not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense.