JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
The Alaska National Guard kicked off April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month March 30 with a proclamation signing and remarks by Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general and commissioner for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
The Alaska National Guard recognizes SAAPM as part of a Department of Defense-wide focus on raising awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault, prevention methods, and appropriate care and responses.
“We’re here to help facilitate the care and wellness for victims of sexual assault, and also bring awareness and educate on prevention methods,” said Ashley Shelton, the sexual assault response coordinator for the Alaska National Guard. “We want to prevent these things from happening, but should they happen, we want to make sure we can provide the appropriate care and response to individuals who need it.”
During the month of April, the AKNG Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program will be hosting Teal Tuesdays, where individuals are encouraged to wear teal to bring awareness to sexual violence and show support of survivors. In addition to periodic breakfast training sessions, the program will also feature Denim Day, where people are encouraged to wear denim, an event that stems from a 1998 Italian Supreme Court rape conviction that was overturned because the victim wore tight jeans.
DoD’s 2022 SAAPM theme is “STEP FORWARD. Prevent. Report. Advocate,” and is “a
call to action for individuals at all levels of the Department to use their personal strength to advance positive change in preventing sexual violence.”
Shelton explained that it is critical that all individuals do their part in each of these steps, as well as creating an environment that is comfortable for victims to come forward.
“That advocate piece is even bigger than just me and our other victim advocates,” she said. “Everybody needs to take an opportunity to advocate for the program to their Soldiers, Airmen, and their peers.”
At the event, Saxe signed the proclamation for a renewed commitment to protect Guard members, mission partners and the local community.
“If you can look forward and understand that this isn’t a program, it’s a culture, then you can eradicate it [sexual assault] from the ranks,” said Saxe. “That doesn’t just include people who have done the act but those who condone the act and don’t step forward to correct the act. That’s my challenge to myself, that’s my challenge to the organization, to make sure that, yes, we talk the talk, but we walk the walk.”
Shelton agreed on the importance of everyone taking an active, daily role in the program.
“Everybody should know that our leadership does understand this program, they do support this program, and they will be there for their Soldiers and Airmen should they need to utilize the program in the future,” said Shelton.
Saxe concluded the ceremony with a call to action for all members of the Alaska National Guard.
“Let’s go forward as a state, as the Alaska National Guard and be that shining example,” he said. “Every single person, regardless of rank or title, is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. If we do that than our operational mission is going to be all the more successful.”