Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft .
Since 1973, I have been proud to call myself a member of the United States Coast Guard, serving alongside the truly extraordinary team of 88,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary members who sustain mission excellence.
I am proud to serve in an organization that upholds our Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty – the rock solid foundation upon which we serve our Nation.
Sexual assault and the behaviors that enable it are abhorrent to our Core Values and directly impact our ability to execute the mission.
The demands of our missions require a level of trust and respect that is violated by this terrible crime. With utmost vigilance we stand the watch, from combating transnational organized crime to fighting terrorism, to stopping human trafficking. Our duty to people demands we project this same vigilance in preventing and responding to sexual assault. We have made great strides, but we are not done yet.
In 2014, 254 sexual assaults were reported, 143 active duty members were investigated for sexual assault and an estimated 2,350 Coast Guard members were victims of harassment.
This must change.
Driving out sexual assault and enabling behaviors is not simply a box to check. Our commitment to fostering an environment where assault and harassment cannot thrive is never finished.
Your senior leadership is concentrating on three aspects of driving out sexual assault from our Service: prevention, response and accountability. We will reinforce a culture of respect inhospitable to sexual assault and the behaviors that enable it; we will continue to encourage and support sexual assault reporting and provide timely, coordinated resources to victims; we will take all reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly and analyze and share disposition trends to ensure transparency. And, we will care for those who report they have been victims and protect their rights as we protect the rights of those who are accused.
I mentioned the initiatives we are undertaking as an organization; however, cultural change really starts with the individual. It starts with you. Across every pay grade in the U.S. Coast Guard, we must make every effort together, we must be absolutely committed and we must call out behavior for what it is.
During this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I expect each and every one of us who proudly serves our Nation to reinforce a culture of respect. We must all stand together to create an inclusive climate built upon a culture of dignity and respect. This month is not about more training, meetings or awareness campaigns – it’s about action.
Together, we will rid our Service of the scourge of sexual assault.
Not in my Coast Guard.