This April we observe the tenth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but my message on the subject will be relevant every month - the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs does not tolerate, condone, or ignore the crime of sexual assault.
The Department of Defense's theme for this year's awareness campaign is, "Live our values: step up to stop sexual assault." No campaign theme could better summarize my expectations for each member of our organization.
Each DEMA component, the Arizona Army National Guard, the Air Guard, and the Division of Emergency Management, emphasizes the importance of core values such as loyalty, integrity, duty, excellence and honor. I have put forth a refinement of our collective values with the following two rules for service in this department - always tell the truth and always give your best effort.
Assaulting a coworker is a violation of these rules. There isn't a Soldier, Airman or civilian employee that can convince me that victimizing a peer through sexual assault is their best effort. Live our values and know that if anyone commits sexual assault, they will not remain in the formation.
Our values clearly apply to bystander intervention. If you are aware of someone who is assaulting someone else in the workplace, engaged in harassment or gender-based discrimination, you have a duty to step forward. That goes right to telling the truth. And, if you choose to look the other way while someone is victimized because you don't want to get involved you are not giving your best effort.
Hostile environments that are replete with sexual harassment or inappropriate physical contact create conditions where sexual assault may occur. We must ensure first line supervisors are addressing these issues and counseling individuals who make inappropriate comments or commit any action that breeds a disregard for personal dignity and professional conduct. Supervisors must keep track of issues affecting their subordinates by communicating with them, empowering them to raise concerns, and ensuring allegations of sexual assault are reported and investigated properly.
If someone in our organization has been victimized by a peer, he or she can trust the chain of command to do the right thing. They are encouraged to go to their unit's sexual assault response coordinator and make a report that allows the chain of command to address the issue.
I believe we will eradicate sexual assault when each member realizes it is an issue of trust, dignity and respect. Ultimately, we are about building capable teams. This kind of assault runs counter to that, degrades trust, and weakens the team.
It is a privilege to serve the State of Arizona, either as a member of the Arizona National Guard or a civilian employee. The men and women who serve their country and state are held in high esteem by society - higher than any other public institution. We will not allow sexual assault to tarnish the sacred public trust we have worked so hard to earn. We will live our values and step up to stop sexual assault.