As an Airman and a senior leader in the Air Force Reserve, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impacts of sexual assault on an Air Force organization. Regardless of your unit or military status, Active or Reserve, no one is immune to these impacts nor absolved of their responsibility to combat the instances of sexual assault that continue to threaten our Service. These actions are heinous crimes and are still prevalent in our military today. And the solution is a challenge for our Total Force – all of us, regardless of rank or Service affiliation; Active Duty, Reserve, civilian, contractor, or dependent, have a moral responsibility to stop these offenses.
We all play a key role as individuals; but more importantly, as a team, to eliminate sexual assault from our Air Force. These roles and responsibilities should not be taken lightly. In fact, this very issue calls for bold leadership and increased situational awareness that empowers and encourages others to action.
Start by understanding that “SAPR” is more than just another important Air Force acronym…SAPR means “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.” Sometimes relying on an acronym desensitizes us from its meaning. Saying “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response” out loud reminds us of our individual and team responsibilities to this program–in other words, understanding the full spectrum of offenses that comprise “Sexual Assault;” the full set of tools and actions required for “Prevention;” and all resources available (“Restricted” or “Unrestricted”) for “Response” if these offenses occur. And, our ability to combat and eliminate instances of sexual assault requires that everyone understands the vital role they play.
But, taking a stand against sexual assaults is more than a simple verbal commitment to do better. It requires, and even demands, real action on our part. Believe me, this will not always be easy – taking action means courageously confronting even our peers and friends head on when we identify inappropriate behavior or commentary both in and out of the workplace. While inaction, on the contrary, leaves these damaging acts unchecked and can allow them to continue–this hurts our Air Force and its members.
Until we take deliberate steps as a team to change this culture into one where dignity and trust are our foundation, we will never reach our full potential. So I ask today, that each one of you make a commitment, to “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response,” to take real action and confront this issue head on.