Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Afghanistan

Story by Sgt. Ashley Bell

Photo: A message on sexual assault awareness prevention appears on the back of a T-shirt worn by a participant in the 5K Run/Walk during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 1, 2013. The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley Bell.

A message on sexual assault awareness prevention appears on the back of a T-shirt worn by a participant in the 5K Run/Walk during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 1, 2013. The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley Bell.

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is observed every April not only among civilians but also in the military. This year at Kandahar Airfield, the month is kicked off with a 5K run/walk in support of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

“I was actually shocked seeing the turnout,” said Senior Airmen Kevin Buettner, a unit victim advocate in the Air Force. “We had approximately 520 people sign up and over 400 people showed up to run.”

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Millare, an equal opportunity adviser and a sexual harassment and assault prevention officer for the Third Infantry Division, said Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is about driving cultural change and awareness in our Army, the Department of Defense and even the nation.

“It is an opportunity for everyone to continue and renew the fight against sexual assaults,” said Millare. “Bottom line, everyone needs to be aware of this problem and everyone can help prevent this crime. An active bystander is the first step to changing the culture.”

The goal of the program is to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual violence through special events and educational awareness. Several events have been scheduled throughout the month of April in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Millare wanted service members and civilians to know and understand that sexual assaults are preventable.

“Most of the sexual assaults begin as sexual harassment and if we can intervene at this stage, we can succeed,” said Millare. “It will give victims the confidence to report it and avoid tolerating it as a military necessity. It will also send a signal to the perpetrators that these actions are wrong, against policy and will not be tolerated; hopefully it will prevent this individual to continue to do wrong.”

The military services received a total of 3,192 reports of sexual assault during fiscal year 2011. This represents a one percent increase since fiscal year 2010, when there were 3,158 reports of sexual assault.

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