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Increase in sexual assault reports a positive sign
Response to sexual assault is now a concern at the top levels of government Accordingly, this April marks the eighth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month observed by the Department of Defense and the military services
Statistics show that more Service members are reporting sexual assaults with each passing year, but there's a blessing to that
Wilkinson attributes the rise in reports to the intensive training that each Servicemember receives as part of regular training throughout the year
Every Minnesota National Guard member is educated about perpetrator behavior, bystander intervention, command climate, resources for help, reporting options, and more Unit victim advocates undergo additional training, often with chaplains and civilian subject matter experts
"A rise in sexual assault reports is a positive trend that we do not want to discourage," she said
Wilkinson was selected by the National Guard Bureau as one of four individuals to represent the National Guard at the 2012 SAPR conference in Washington DC this past March In Washington, Wilkinson provided a briefing for Maj Gen Mary Kay Hertog, director for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of the Department of Defense
"We have to eliminate this problem from our ranks," Hertog said at the conference "The American public gives us what's most dear to them and that's their sons and daughters And they trust us that we're going to take care of them"
In the past year, the Minnesota SAPR office has developed Standard Operating Procedures for command and leadership
Within the SOP is detailed instruction for commanders in the event of a report and step-by-step guidance for all sexual assault response coordinators and unit victim advocates when supporting a victim of sexual assault At the National Guard Bureau, the expedited transfer process continues to be addressed
The SAPR office has also stood up a Facebook page in 2012 and now publishes a quarterly newsletter
"Our number one priority is to ensure Service members get the help they need to overcome the trauma of sexual assault that occurs on or off duty," said Wilkinson
According to the most recent Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military at wwwsaprmil, common reasons for not reporting sexual assaults are: not wanting anyone to know, feeling uncomfortable making the report, thinking the report would not be kept confidential, fear of retaliation or reprisal from the perpetrator, fear of being labeled a troublemaker, hearing about negative experiences of other victims, and thinking that nothing would be done
The SAPR program is a victim-focused program that responds to all sexual assault reports with care, concern, and confidentiality The goal is to provide a safe means for victims of sexual assault to report the assault with or without triggering an investigation, and most of all receive access to the medical services needed to heal from any physical, mental, or emotional trauma
Options for those seeking help include:
- Calling the hotline at 877-995-5247 to speak with Safe Helpline staff for personalized advice and support
- Texting a location to 55247 inside the United States or 202-470-5546 outside of the United States to receive automated contact information for the SARC at their installation or base
- Visiting http://wwwSafeHelplineorg to receive live, one-on-one confidential help with a trained professional through a secure instant-messaging format The website also provides vital information about recovering from and reporting sexual assault
Posted: 2015-11-25 09:37 AM ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Women Veterans Initiative (WVI), a group orientated toward networking Minnesota women military members and veterans brought 16 service(wo)men from all services, ages and backgrounds together, November 12, to assist in a Habitat for Humanity build. Eleven of the 16 women are current or former Minnesota National Guardsmen.
"We started celebrating Veterans Day this way in 2008 with Habitat for Humanity and enjoy coming back each year to build," said Trista Matascastillo, program officer for Veterans Voices and chairman for the WVI. "We learn new skills, build our own confidence and make new friends. There are 27,000-plus women vets in Minnesota and so often we hear that women veterans feel isolated and alone and having events like this is just another way to bring us out and together."
The group started in the morning with a brief on the tasks for the day and quickly got to work, going above and beyond by organizing the work-site and making sure there was a high attention to detail.
The event featured a C-130 tour for any of the attendees, which included girls as young as nine. Following the tour, the documentary film 'Girl Rising' was featured and ended with a panel discussion. Topics included overcoming obstacles, mentors and people who have inspired them along the way.
"I think events like this are essential in opening our doors to the community and raising awareness about important issues not only local, but around the world - often these are places many of our wing members have deployed to," said Master Sgt. Theresa Mensinger, Diversity and Inclusion Senior Non-commissioned officer.
Posted: 2015-11-16 07:47 AM DULUTH, Minn. - With the handing-off of the 148th Fighter Wing's flag on Saturday, Col. Jon Safstrom has become the new wing commander.
The Duluth native assumed the leadership role from Col. Frank Stokes, who is leaving Duluth after leading the 148th for more than six years to become chief of current operations at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
During Saturday's Change of Command Ceremony at the Minnesota Air National Guard base in Duluth, Stokes passed the flag of the 148th "Bulldogs" to Brig. Gen. David Hamlar, who then passed the flag to Safstrom, symbolizing the accepting of the command.
Posted: 2015-11-12 12:51 PM BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing and employees from Best Buy Corporate joined forces to support Operation Gratitude at the Best Buy corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Minn., Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.
Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, volunteer-based corporation, funded entirely by private donations. Every year, Operation Gratitude sends more than 150,000 individually-addressed care packages to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas.
On Friday, more than 30 members from the 133rd Airlift Wing worked side-by-side with employees of Best Buy Corporate to pack bags filled with snacks, small electronics and other items to be shipped to deployed military members overseas. The efforts paid off and the group packed nearly 1,800 bags in under an hour.