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Sexual assault undermines AF values

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month by both military and civilian communities across the country.

This year, the Department of Defense has chosen the theme "We own it ... We'll solve it ... Together" - a statement that exemplifies the military's approach to preventing and ending sexual assault.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's "National Crime Victimization Survey," someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Approximately two-thirds of those assaults were committed by someone known to the victim.

While it is easy to get lost in statistics about sexual assault, it is very important to remember that behind every number is an actual person. It is more likely than not that you know someone who has experienced sexual assault in some way. We don't always know what the person next to us has experienced, and it's important to remember that jokes or comments about sexual assault or harassment can re-open wounds that are still healing.

Sexual assault is not an easy topic to discuss - it doesn't come up at the dinner table, at a party, or even in the classroom. We don't like talking about it. However, we need to have those discussions with our peers, our children and our Airmen. Sexual assault isn't just an issue for women, or victims, or even the sexual assault response coordinator. Sexual assault is a crime that affects the entire community. Ellsworth is a community that has an obligation to raise awareness about ending and preventing sexual assault.

So how do we own and solve this together? We talk about it and we let our peers know that sexually offensive jokes and behavior are not tolerated. We have to stand together as active bystanders and accept the responsibility to take care of each other.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month provides us with a chance to renew our commitment to owning and solving this together. We can only succeed if every one of us is committed to treating each other with dignity and respect. We must create and maintain an environment where sexual assault is neither tolerated nor ignored.

In addition to working together to prevent this crime, we also need to show survivors of sexual assault that we support them. It's important to realize sexual assault is not just something that happens somewhere else to someone else. It happens right here and more frequently than you may think.

As a way of increasing awareness of services and support available for sexual assault victims here at Ellsworth, the 28th Bomb Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office will set up information tables and displays around the base during the entire month of April. The SAPR office will also host an open house, April 26, for the Ellsworth community to tour the new SAPR offices and learn more about preventing sexual assault.

For more information, contact Kelly Dominguez, 28th BW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, at (605) 385-5233, or visit "Ellsworth AFB SAPR" on Facebook.