Taking a stand: Help win fight against sexual assault

by Gen. Larry O. Spencer
Air Force vice chief of staff

WASHINGTON — Just as Airmen broke the sound barrier and pioneered new paths to space, Airmen will pioneer new ways to prevent sexual assault in the Air Force.

Preventing this crime is not easy; if it were, you, America’s Airmen, would already have eliminated it from our force. As we begin this new fiscal year, I ask for your help in pioneering new ways to prevent sexual assault in the force. To be clear, preventing sexual assault focuses on the individual that commits the crime and how to intervene before a crime takes place.

Whether the campaign is called “Inherent Resolve,” “Airmen Powered by Innovation” or “Every Airman Counts,” your ideas are at the forefront of solving every challenge the Air Force faces, and eliminating sexual assault is no different.

In the past several years, we have made great improvements in our sexual assault response programs. We added more sexual assault response coordinators and funded full-time victim advocates at each installation. We stood up a special victims’ capability comprising specially trained investigators, prosecutors and legal support personnel to appropriately prosecute these sex crimes. We also
significantly increased our victim advocacy capability with special victim counselors that are available to all sexual assault victims and whose sole purpose is to represent the victim in any legal proceedings or assist in any other legal and policy matters a victim may need.

We have also spent a great deal of time training and educating every Airman about sexual assault prevention and response. This education starts from the day an Airman walks into a recruiting office and continues throughout their career.

However, our job is far from done. While we’ve made progress in victim advocacy and appropriately holding offenders accountable, there is still significant work to do in preventing sexual assault before it happens. Together, we all need to get better at recognizing the characteristics of the perpetrator and the subtle situations in which we can stop harassment, assault and violence before it happens.

This is where I need your help. From Jan. 12 to 16, we are conducting a sexual assault prevention summit at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and will bring in Airmen from across the force to participate.

While only some of you will be given the opportunity to attend in person, I want all of your ideas on how we can better prevent sexual assault. Visit the Air Force’s “Every Airman Counts” blog at  http://afsapr.dodlive.mil/ and submit your ideas and any other thoughts you have about creating an Air Force free from sexual assault.

It’s going to take all of us working together and exploring innovative ideas to come up with a practical toolkit that we can all use to effectively prevent this horrible crime from taking place in the Air Force.

I appreciate you taking the time to make the difference and to bring us to the next level in the fight against sexual assault.