April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal in this awareness campaign is to combat sexual assault at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany by providing more information and resources to help sexual assault victims know what to do and where to go.
The objective is to protect base personnel and their dependents, ensuring tasks critical to the mission are accomplished. Sexual assault is considered a heinous crime of zero tolerance in the uniformed services, including Department of Defense civilians and/or government contractors.
“Sexual assault erodes the trust and cohesion essential to the Marine Corps, and these actions are incompatible with the core values of honor, courage and commitment,” said Col. Michael Fitzgerald, commanding officer, MCLB Albany. “Marine Corps Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, or SAPR, training is science-based, innovative and imparts practical skill building of positive behaviors such as healthy relationships and interactions, boundaries and effective communication.”
“Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany stands with the rest of the Corps in striving to create and maintain a culture of valuing the contributions of all personnel to optimize mission readiness.”
Michelle Stevens, sexual assault response coordinator, MCLB Albany, said the way to combat and end sexual assault and abuse is through education, training and building partnerships with community organizations. This year’s theme is “Connecting Together to End Sexual Violence.”
This year, SAPR partners were guest speakers in attendance in a SAPR awards ceremony at MCLB Albany. They were Lead Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiner and Program Coordinator Monique Walker from Fort Benning Martin Army Community Hospital, and Courtny Girley from Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Others in attendance and supporting this year’s event were representatives from the Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center, Liberty House and Albany Police Department.
Awards were also presented to SAPR victim advocates from MCLB Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command.
Stevens said community partnerships and training are vital and help protect mission readiness. All MCLB Albany personnel undergo some level of sexual assault awareness training.
“All SAPR training covers the roles and responsibilities, education and support and how it affects the unit,” Stevens explained. “It also emphasizes what happens when personnel reporting sexual assault are not supported.”
“The SAPR training teaches Marines how to advocate for themselves, how peers can advocate for themselves and how to reduce sexual assault in the Marine Corps,” she continued. “It helps them to learn trust and unity, and what happens when there is a failure to report.”
She also said the buy-in from leadership is important in combating sexual assault. If their leaders advocate for what is right, personnel will feel comfortable going to them.
“Sexual assault can affect mission readiness depending on how it is handled,” Stevens said. “It should be handled so it will not impact the morale of the unit or the lives or any civilian personnel within the workplace.”
Marine Corps and Navy personnel, in decades prior, have made it known their voices had not been heard when reporting incidents of sexual assault. The tide is turning.
New DOD SAPR policies and procedures are developed over time to ensure service members are protected and supported when faced with sexual assault.
“Efforts are being made to improve the culture and it has made a difference,” Stevens said.
The action of reporting and standing up against sexual assault empowers and leads to cultural movements and DOD policy changes.
“The SAPR program, in a nutshell, is to ensure safety for all, that no one is alone,” Stevens added.
The base’s SAPR resources can be utilized by retired military and all military dependents. Active-duty service members on or off post can still report incidents.
The SAPR support line 229-881-3883. Stevens can be reached for additional information at 229-639-5602 or 229-854-8805. The DOD Safe Helpline can be reached at 877-955-5247.
More information about resources for sexual assault victims at MCLB Albany can be found at www.albany.usmc-mccs.org.