The month of April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention 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 first account comes from Kristin Cox, a sexual assault response coordinator. While her message is to shipmates, her call to action applies to all: stay informed and take action.
Written by Kristin Cox.
I’ve been working with the Coast Guard almost my whole adult life and now my daughter also works for the Coast Guard. As part of the Coast Guard family, I maintain a unique bond with active duty members as I support them in performing the Coast Guard’s challenging maritime missions. I am a civilian. I am a shipmate.
As a shipmate, I often ask myself, “What makes a good shipmate?” When it comes to sexual assault prevention and response, being a shipmate is about staying informed and taking action.
Would you know how to help someone who is reporting a sexual assault? Do you know how a typical sexual assault offender acts? Do you know what to do to help your shipmates from becoming a victim of this crime? Can you help stop the crime of sexual assault from happening in the first place?
As a sexual assault response coordinator, part of my job, just like all the other SARCs in the Coast Guard, is to help you answer all of the above questions. The other part of my job is to ensure all sexual assault victims have the information, support and resources they need to heal, including access to Coast Guard victim advocates. Victim advocates are shipmates trained to support and inform sexual assault survivors. They are also one of the resources who can receive restricted reports of sexual assault so that victims can confidentially receive information, support, medical care and counseling without their command knowing or launching an investigation. SARCs, health care providers and chaplains can also receive restricted reports. If a survivor tells anyone else other than a SARC, health care provider, chaplain or victim advocate, they no longer have a choice for a restricted report.
I encourage each of you to learn more about the resources, programs and policies currently in place. The cliché knowledge is power comes to mind; but in the case of sexual assault, knowledge safeguards your shipmates.
Why should you care? Look around you. Statistically speaking, every third woman or seventh man you know is a victim of sexual assault. As a sexual assault response coordinator I encounter survivors of the crime of sexual assault every single day in our Coast Guard.
We want every shipmate to be able to identify sexual assault. We want you to know how and when to intervene to prevent sexual assaults and other misconduct. We also want you to know how to compassionately respond when an assault occurs.
With this information, Coast Guard members can hold shipmates accountable for their behavior. And that’s where taking action comes into play: There can be no bystanders in the prevention of or response to sexual assault.
Whether you protect someone from a sexual predator, stop a sexual assault or care for a shipmate who is sexually assaulted, we all have a role to play, no matter how small.
As part of the Coast Guard family, we are duty bound to respect shipmates. I want all shipmates to feel safe from sexual assault and know we will stand together and proudly say “Not in my Coast Guard!”