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 D.C. 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 www.sapr.mil, 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://www.SafeHelpline.org 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: 2014-03-10 12:00 AM ST. PAUL, Minn.- The Minnesota National Guard's top female enlisted leaders held a seminar March 8, 2014, for career development focused on addressing barriers that may prevent females from rising to the organization's highest ranks. Fostering a diverse workforce and ensuring the right mix of people to complete the mission are top priorities of the Minnesota National Guard leadership.
"The data is pretty conclusive," said Brig. Gen. Neal Loidolt, Commander of the 34th Infantry Division. "As diverse a work group as you can create will out-perform a homogeneous workgroup every time. Now I find myself doing what I can related to mentoring great female leaders or adjusting our business processes to better support that system because I know we'll be better organizationally."
Posted: 2014-03-09 12:00 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- With winter winds blowing steady, and wind chills hovering at 30 degrees below zero, 21 members of the 148th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) took over parts of Camp Ripley, Minn., in a four-day combined drill. Led by Capt. John Christenson and Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Gunderson, the Airman of the 148th SFS took part in advanced weapons and tactics skills training while utilizing state-of-the-art weapons and vehicle simulators, as well as a large assault village.
During the period of Feb. 27 - March 2, the teams of the 148th SFS arrived at Camp Ripley and went straight into simulated combat using the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST 2000). Individual and squad weapons simulators allowed the members to work using M4 assault rifles and M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, overcoming combat situations as a team and handling law enforcement "shoot, don't shoot" scenarios. The group then spent two days working in the bitter, winter weather at the Combined Collective Training Facility (CACTF), a mock city set up to simulate any and all building configurations.
Social media offers many benefits, but Guard members must remain aware of its risks
Posted: 2014-03-06 10:10 AM ARLINGTON, Va., (3/6/2014) - The use of social media has made it easier for many to stay connected to friends and family. It often provides the opportunities to give near instant communications via text or images and can help ease stresses when Service members are deployed. The benefits of social media are nearly endless and often far reaching.
"Social media spreads news faster than any other media," said Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush, the senior enlisted advisor for the chief, National Guard Bureau, on his Facebook page, adding "it empowers us to effect change and do good on a community, state, national or even international level."