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Maj. Jeremy Kerfoot, U.S. Army Military Police Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, lectures on the topic of Organizational Prevention during the 2nd annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Symposium hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office (SAPRO) at The Clubs at Quantico aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Photo by Ida Irby

Equip, empower, educate against sexual assault

12 Apr 2016 | Ida Irby Marine Corps Base Quantico

Service members of every uniform united to take a stand against sexual assault during the 2nd annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Symposium hosted by the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office (SAPRO) at The Clubs at Quantico aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Many leaders donned their lapels with a teal ribbon to engage in a dialogue about sexual assault prevention and awareness April 5-6. Participants traveled from as far away as Fort Meade, Maryland, Fort Myer and Prince William County.

“This is an important subject, and it’s great to see a lot of different uniforms. When I say uniforms, I include civilians who are highly involved in this process,” said Col. Joseph Murray, base commander, who encouraged leaders to create conversations among the collective group so that everyone understands their role in the process of sexual assault response.

“We must be able to take care of the special needs that occur when someone is assaulted,” he added.

Education is essential in reducing sexual assault in the military. The two-day symposium included discussions about “sextortion,” suicide prevention, rape investigation, victim advocacy ethics, cultural competence, sexual assault prevention and a sexual assault response panel.

“Today we will equip commanders with the tools to ensure that a command climate is intolerant of any type of retaliatory behavior,” said guest speaker Dr. Allison Greene-Sands, DoD SAPRO deputy chief of staff, who led the discussion titled Retaliation Strategies.

“Sexual Assault is the kind of crime that people don’t always report after being victimized. As a result, the reporting rate is low,” said Greene-Sands. “We are working to put additional measures in place to ensure that command climates don’t tolerate sexual assault, let alone retaliation when someone does come forward to report.”

One speaker discussed the reporting process, which included the prosecutor from United States v. Joshua Linkous. The former Marine was indicted by a federal jury on sexual assault charges. It took approximately five years before the victims reported the abuse.

“There are already enough barriers that keep [victims of assault] from coming forward, and fear of reprisal should not be one of them,” said Greene-Sands. “Fear is definitely a barrier. Victims wonder what will happen to their careers. They question if their command will believe the incident. They fear backlash from their peers or even command.”

The Tactical Unit Commanders Guide to Preventing Sexual Assault in the Military is a manuscript under development and is scheduled to be released during 2016. The manual gives leaders tools to increase prevention of sexual assault crimes.

“The tactical guide is going to arm leaders with tangible actions they can take to prevent sexual assault within their organizations,” said guest speaker Maj. Jeremy Kerfoot, U.S. Army Military Police SAPRO.

“Leaders have said that prevention is hard. They understand how to support a victim, but question how to talk about assault and implement something to ensure we can prevent it,” he said.

Both the person who reports and the person accused must be handled with care. Leaders must understand the importance of treating everyone fairly.

Marines have the option of working with military or civilian advocates aboard MCBQ. For more than two years, Amy Chen, victims advocate, has supported the base community. She is assisted by the unit victims advocate Staff Sgt. Megan Frederick, Headquarters and Service Battalion.

If you are a victim of assault or want to report a sexual crime call the 24/7 sexual assault support line at 703-432-9999.

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