Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms Calif. --
April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Combat Center personnel seek to bring attention to a subject that continues to have a negative impact throughout the ranks. In a statement to the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, said he supports Sexual Assault Awareness Month with its theme, “We own it. We’ll solve it, together.”
“Sexual assault goes against everything we are as Marines. It goes against everything we pledge to be, honorable men and women of the highest moral and ethical character,” Barrett said. “It opposes our Corps values that have made our institution the finest in the world.”
All Marines have to participate in annual sexual assault training, regardless of rank. They are taught ways to report if they are a victim of sexual assault and different ways to prevent it. The training also explains the consequences of committing sexual assault.
“Marines come from all different walks of life and something might have been acceptable in the culture they were raised, but sexual assault is zero-tolerance, Marine Corps wide,” said Jennifer Husung, the Combat Center’s sexual assault response coordinator. “We don’t tolerate individuals advancing on someone else when there is no consent.”
Alcohol is involved in the majority of sexual assault incidents, Husung said. Many sexual assaults begin in social situations and often with people they know. When an individual is under any type of influence, they are no longer able to give consent.
Sexual assault prevention includes the notion everyone has the ability to stop an assault if they witness a suspicious situation.
“Sexual assault is a shameful and disgusting crime,” Barrett said. “Failing to intervene is a cowardly act.”
Sexual assault victims or witnesses have options when reporting an incident. There are two ways of reporting; restricted and unrestricted.
A restricted report can only be reported to certain individuals who will remain confidential about the incident like chaplains, advocates and counselors.
Unrestricted reports mean the individual reporting can receive all services, the victim’s chain of command will be notified.
“A big part of individuals coming forward is trusting in their command,” Husung said. “The training the commands have to go through is causing a huge change, especially here on base.”
Two years ago, there were 18 reports of sexual assault. In the past year there were 40 reported assaults on base.
“There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” Barrett said. “We always stand together and we always remain faithful. Remember who you are.”