The month of April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and throughout the month Coast Guard Compass will highlight first-person accounts from men and women of the Coast Guard who are taking a stand against the crime of sexual assault. Our second account comes from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt.
If you were at a Coast Guard unit yesterday you may have wondered why Coast Guard chiefs were walking around in their dress uniforms in the middle of the week. Good. That is just the conversation starter we wanted when we created Service Dress Blue Day. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Coast Guard and, as chiefs, we wanted to send a very strong message to all Coast Guardsmen that sexual assault will not be tolerated in our Coast Guard.
To help send this message and to improve awareness of sexual assault, we designated April 3rd as SDB Day. I requested that all chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs around the Coast Guard wear their SDBs in a show of leadership and solidarity, and in recognition of the start of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Besides raising awareness, I asked all chiefs to use SDB Day to engage with their crews and talk about three main points concerning sexual assault:
1. Sexual assault is a crime and violates our core values.
2. Preventing and stopping sexual assault is everyone’s responsibility, whether at work or on liberty.
3. Sexual assault impacts operational readiness, mission success, unit cohesion, our shipmates and their families.
Earlier this week on the Compass, Master Chief Petty Officer Devin Spencer wrote a blog post that mentioned leadership’s involvement in preventing sexual assault, saying “It all starts at the top.” He said that what is important to the command is what is important to the crew. He’s absolutely right. Sexual assault is an important leadership issue, an issue that requires leaders to be engaged and involved at all levels and an issue that requires leaders to take a direct, sometimes intrusive approach.
Eliminating sexual assault from our service requires our people to have the courage to step forward and stop inappropriate behavior. It requires all Coast Guardsmen, from the Commandant to the newest recruit at Training Center Cape May, to hold their shipmates accountable for their actions, both on and off duty. It takes creating a service culture intolerant of sexual assault.
Bottom line: I hope this event spurred discussion about taking care of our shipmates. As a service, we must be able to identify sexual predator behaviors and be ready to prevent and stop sexual assault. All of us need to understand how to support victims of these crimes. Together, we can make sure sexual assault has no place in our Coast Guard.
If you would like more information on the Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program, please visit www.uscg.mil/sapr. If a shipmate has been sexually assaulted, visit www.safehelpline.org or call 1-877-995-5247. CG SUPRT (Employee Assistance Program) is also a great resource: 1-855-CGSUPRT (247-8778) or www.CGSUPRT.com.