April 23, 2009

Virginia Guard participates in Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Guard units from across Virginia are participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month during the month of April.

  Sexual Assault Awareness Month

At an interactive display at Fort Pickett, Spc. Miranda Jaggers traces her hand and signs her name as a pledge to "use strength for defending" and to understand that it is her duty to prevent Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. (Photo Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs)

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to highlight the Army’s mission is not only national defense, but the defense and safety of those who voluntarily risk their lives for the nation’s defense. Sexual assault degrades mission readiness and is fundamentally at odds with the responsibility of the men and women in uniform to treat all people with dignity and respect.

“I always thought of sexual assault as something that the women had to prevent by acting and dressing in a manner as to not draw attention to themselves,” Master Sgt. Debra Mendez said. “After going through the SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) training at Little Rock and dealing with victims of sexual assault, I realized that prevention and awareness are the keys to solving this growing problem in the military.”

Mendez, who is currently Virginia’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, is in the process of setting up displays and bringing "I. A.M. Strong" and "Our Strength is for Defending" posters to all the armories in the state including the Army and Air Guard.

  Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sgt. John Burch of the Virginia National Guard also traces his hand and signs his name. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is intended to highlight the Army’s mission is not only national defense, but the defense and safety of those who voluntarily risk their lives for the nation’s defense. (Photo Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs)

The goal for the program is for every Soldier and Airman to understand that it is their duty to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in the Virginia Guard.

Mendez will also begin working with the newly trained "Wing SARC" to make sure that the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program in Virginia is a joint effort between the Army Guard and the Air Guard.

I. A.M. Strong is the Army’s campaign to combat sexual assaults by engaging all Soldiers in preventing sexual assaults before they occur. The letters in I. A.M Strong stand for Intervene, Act, and Motivate. It is intended to engage others to stop sexual assaults, sexually offensive language and gestures that create an environment friendly to this abuse.

For additional resources:

The Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program: http://www.preventsexualassault.army.mil/index.cfm

The U.S. Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response: http://www.sapr.mil/

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