Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Creating a Zero Tolerance Environment

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), the Coast Guard Compass will feature weekly stories throughout April on the service’s efforts to create a zero tolerance environment with respect to sexual assault. The Coast Guard’s position on sexual assaults is a straightforward one:

Sexual assault is a crime that is not compatible with military service and the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.

In recognition of the importance of this issue, the Coast Guard stood up the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program in 2007 and continues to expand the initiative throughout the organization.

The theme of this year’s SAAM is “Hurts One, Affects All.” In an ALCOAST on the subject, Rear Admiral Mark Tedesco observes that sexual assaults in the military negatively impact mission readiness and can reverberate throughout a military unit and the community that exists around it. In the same ALCOAST, RADM Tedesco acknowledges that “sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in our society and in the military. The (Coast Guard) recognizes that some victims forgo medical and support service to avoid command or law enforcement involvement.”

To put the Coast Guard’s efforts to combat sexual assaults in the service into context, we spoke to SAPR program manager Shaw Marie Wren.

“The Coast Guard is serious about achieving a zero tolerance for sexual assault within its ranks. I am particularly impressed with the continually increasing support for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program as the culture continues to shift towards an even greater understanding and sensitivity to this topic and the people affected by sexual assault.”

That culture shift is taking shape in many forms. From training Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to respond to sexual assaults cases throughout the service; to the aggressive prosecution of sexual assault offenders; to specialized training for future leaders at the Coast Guard Academy, the Coast Guard has made “zero tolerance” more than a slogan. It is a command imperative.

Over the next several weeks, we will introduce you to several members of the service involved in creating and enforcing our zero tolerance culture. We’ll also seek some outside perspective on just how well we’re doing responding to this issue. Our goal is to cast a spotlight on one of the most challenging issues facing the military and the Coast Guard’s response to it.

As always, we invite your respectful comments and will do our best to answer your questions or facilitate a dialogue on this important topic.

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