WASHINGTON, April 13, 2016 —
From the most junior service member to the highest-ranking official, everyone in the Defense Department has a role in eliminating sexual assault, the director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said in a recent DoD News interview.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, and the theme for this year's observance is, "Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part. Do Your Part," said Army Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols, who is the director of the office responsible for oversight of the DoD sexual assault prevention and response policy.
Prevention a Year-Round Effort
"We absolutely want to ensure that the types of men and women that serve are in fact reflective of the values and the honor that we must have in our military," Nichols said.
The efforts throughout the observance month and the entire year are focusing on renewing the prevention strategy, she said, including knowing the risk and protective factors, and highlighting each person’s role at all echelons of the organization; every member of the DoD community has a role in eliminating sexual assault.
There will be various events this month throughout the worldwide DoD community to highlight awareness and promote a strong culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, Nichols said.
"You must not stand on the sidelines and be a bystander; you must be an intervener,” she added.
"We don’t want anybody in our formation to ever suffer through experiencing something as egregious as a sexual assault," she said. "We also want to prevent anyone in our formation exercising behaviors that have the potential to lead to criminal conduct.”
Help is Available 24/7
“The Department wants its military and civilian community to know there are resources out there for them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Nichols said. “We want to eliminate any perception of retaliation that might keep victims -- men and women -- from coming forward in reporting sexual assaults.”
Victims of sexual assault or even people just wanting information -- including colleagues or family members of victims -- can go through their respective military service for help, or visit the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response website.
The DoD Safe Helpline website is available 24/7, or call toll free at 877-995-5247. The Safe Helpline is secure, confidential and available worldwide.
Nichols urges anyone who is a victim of sexual assault to seek out the resources that can aid them.
"No one should suffer in silence. Please come forward and get help," she said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoDNews)