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Task force aims to prevent sexual assault

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFPN) -- Everyone has a role in preventing and responding to sexual assault, said the commander of the Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response during her remarks at a women’s history luncheon here.

Brig. Gen. K.C. McClain assumed command in October 2004. The task force is establishing sexual assault policy for the Defense Department.

“(Sexual assault) is the most underreported crime in our society,” she said. “We have to talk about it.”

The eight-person, multiservice task force is striving to improve prevention efforts, enhance support to victims and increase system accountability, General McClain said.

The task force was formed because of a report released in April 2004 by the DOD’s Task Force on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault. The report called for the military to do more to help sexual-assault victims. The armed forces had 901 alleged sexual assaults reported in 2002 and 1,012 in 2003.

“The task force is to establish overarching policy that would bring all services up to the same standard,” General McClain said. “Now that the policy is in place, implementation is the next step. Implementation is the hard part -- making sure that everybody understands the intent of the policy so that we … tackle this issue and make it better.”

“That is one of the reasons I was glad to come here,” she said. “The more people that I talk to and help them understand what we are doing and why, will speed and ease the implementation.”

Education is paramount for the success of this program, General McClain said. Everyone in DOD, military and civilian, will receive initial training. It will be taught at basic military training, technical schools and first term Airmen centers. Training will be recurring, probably annually, General McClain said.

The policy is currently being written into officer and enlisted professional military education programs, and will be taught during pre-command courses and at the First Sergeant’s Academy.

“Training must continue at all levels because as we progress throughout our careers, our roles change,” she said. “We must understand the issues so we can begin to eradicate this problem.”

Sexual assault affects military readiness, General McClain said. The military is a team and for a team to be successful, people have to rely on each other, and they have to trust each other.

“Teammates don’t discriminate against each other, they don’t harass each other, they don’t assault each other, and they don’t tolerate those who do,” she said. “We all have a role in this to help keep our team strong.”

Since 20 percent of the Air Force team is women, it is critical that the Air Force has a climate where everyone can trust each other, she said. Therefore, it should be dedicated to fixing anything that affects that climate. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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