By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Fort Hood leaders reaffirmed the post's commitment to prevent sexual assault on the first day of national Sexual Assault Awareness Month Thursday afternoon at III Corps Headquarters.
Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, III Corps and Fort Hood senior mission commander, signed a proclamation recognizing the Army's effort to reduce sexual assault, abuse and incest, saying the crimes were "debilitating our organization."
The acts erode trust and confidence among the ranks, he said, and degrades men and women in uniform.
Getting Grimsley and other high-ranking post officials involved in promoting awareness is important because it puts all the strength of Fort Hood behind its sexual assault prevention and response program, said Dana Bettger, a trainer in the program.
Fort Hood has more than 500 unit victim advocates who work with about 10 civilian advocates to get help to those who report sexual assaults.
Reporting sexual assault is a survivor's choice, Bettger said. Those who come forward to victim advocates don't have to notify law enforcement officials or their commands, but it is always encouraged, she added.
Sexual assaults are the most under-reported crime in the country, Bettger went on to say, at 16 to 20 percent. She did not have information on how many sexual assaults occurred in the past year at Fort Hood, she said Thursday.
The Army unveiled a new campaign a year ago to encourage bystanders to stand up and speak for those they see victimized: I. A.M. Strong, which stands for "intervene," "act" and "motivate."
"When I recognize a threat to my fellow soldiers, I will have the personal courage to INTERVENE and prevent sexual assault," read information from the Army.
"You are my brother, my sister, my fellow soldier. It is my duty to stand up for you, no matter the time or place. I will take ACTION.
"We are American soldiers, MOTIVATED to keep our fellow soldiers safe."
Sexual harassment is included in that because harassment could be a precursor to sexual assault, Bettger said. The Army's I. A.M. Strong campaign encourages bystanders to get involved when they see such behavior because "all it takes is one person to stand up," Bettger said.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.