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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard recognizes April as sexual assault awareness month

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn - The Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program is working to increase intervention and ensure leaders at all levels are supportive of victims of sexual assault

"We all joined the military for a reason and part of that underlying reason," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennifer Diaz, the Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator "I think with a majority of people, you're here to keep people safe and defend people, so why wouldn't you put that into play with the people that you work next to every day?"

Intervention can play a key role in not just stopping sexual assaults as they are happening, but also stopping a situation before it escalates to the point of sexual assault All Soldiers and Airmen in the Minnesota National Guard are taught to watch out for each other and to intervene when a situation seems to be inappropriate or when a person may be at risk

"Intervening in something is very hard because we're in a time now where people tend to think, 'Well, just mind your own business, it doesn't concern you'," said Diaz "So it's really just trying to get that comfort level up with anybody to be able to stop something that they think might not be right"

During sexual assault awareness month, leaders across the Minnesota National Guard are signing pledges to break down the barriers that exist for victims to come forward and report sexual assaults The Minnesota National Guard used the theory behind End Violence Against Women International's campaign to 'Start by Believing,' which recognizes that the initial reaction a victim receives when they come forward to report an assault makes a difference throughout their process

"It's imagining what can happen if we all believe and support a victim who comes forward," said Diaz

Victims can report an assault through their chain of command and receive medical treatment, counseling and an official investigation, however, victims who wish to make a restricted report that will not trigger an investigation should speak directly to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, unit victim advocate, chaplain or special victims counsel In either a restricted or unrestricted report, the victim will receive access to medical treatment and counseling services

During the month of April, many Minnesota National Guard facilities are also displaying a pair of combat boots that are dyed a teal color in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

"It is just another visual just to signify that it is happening within our military," said Diaz "We want our victims also to see if they haven't reported that they are not alone and that their struggle is not one that they have to take by themselves We want them to know that there are resources and people who are here to help them"

In Minnesota, recently reported sexual assault cases span a variety of situations involving both male and female victims and male and female perpetrators Of the cases reported so far this fiscal year, 78 percent have involved alcohol use by either the perpetrator, victim or both

"I think that they need to know that it does happen, it happens more often than not, it goes very underreported," said Diaz "When someone comes forward and does say that they were assaulted, the chance of them being assaulted is very, very high"

To report a sexual assault, victims can contact the Minnesota National Guard Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at 651-282-4078 or 1-888-282-4858 Victims looking for confidential legal assistance can speak to Capt Peter Williams, the Minnesota National Guard Special Victims Counsel at 651-282-4683 The DoD Safe Helpline also provides live, one-on-one confidential advice and information at wwwSafeHelplineorg or 877-995-5247

April 13, 2015
by Master Sgt Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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