Shedding Light on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

By Robert Martin, USAWC PAO    16 April 2024

Commandant of the U.S. Army War College, Maj. Gen. David Hill (left) and Brig. Gen. Laura McHugh, Deputy Adjutant General PANG chat with Rashan Legard, on April 5th at the Army Heritage and Education Center.

Each April, Carlisle Barracks observes Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This time serves as a poignant reminder of the issue of sexual violence and the need for action to prevent it.

Carlisle Barracks and the Pennsylvania National Guard co-hosted a DoD Sexual Assault and Prevention Summit April 5 at the Army Heritage and Education Center to bring together military and civilian communities and agencies for sexual assault awareness and prevention.

Panel discussions focused on reporting sexual assault and supporting survivors, as well as sexual assault and its effects on mental health. Panel members included both military and civilian professionals who care for and support victims of sexual violence.

"Both civilian and military communities recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month", said Vanessa Pierce-Willis, Carlile Barracks SARC. " The DoD observes SAAPM by focusing on creating the appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault. This year's theme is "STEP FORWARD. PREVENT. REPORT."

"The STEP FORWARD campaign is a call to action for all individuals to use their personal and collective strength to advance meaningful change in preventing and responding to sexual violence. We strive to change harmful behaviors, provide support to victims of sexual assault, and encourage sexual assault prevention initiatives year-round," said Peirce-Willis

SAAPM seeks to challenge harmful attitudes, dismantle myths, and foster a culture of consent, respect, and accountability. It encourages open dialogue and empowers individuals to speak out against sexual violence, support survivors, and actively intervene to prevent harm.

"This year's theme goes hand-in-hand with what we at the Army War College call "the Carlisle Experience," said Maj. Gen. David Hill, Commandant of the U.S. Army War College. "This is about more than just academic excellence. It's about creating an environment where our military families and workforce can thrive - personally and professionally, inside and outside the classroom."

"Central to this experience is cultivating a safe, respectful, and inclusive community—a place where every voice is heard and valued, a support network that empowers growth, innovation, and resiliency. When we unite around these principles—in our seminars, our offices, our neighborhoods, and in every corner of the Carlisle Barracks and Central Pennsylvania—there is no limit to what we can achieve together," he said.

"But we also know that realizing this vision requires more than words. It demands that we take action to address the challenges that threaten the safety and well-being of our community. Challenges like sexual assault and harassment. Preventing these destructive behaviors is a shared duty. It will take commitment and action from all of us - military and civilian, senior and junior, active and national guard, individuals and teams."

"Our Army Values are the foundation for the unbreakable bond between each other. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage define who we are and how we treat each other," said Hill.

To further show the importance of bringing communities together to stop sexual harassment and assault, Brig. Gen. Laura McHugh, Deputy Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, also took time from her schedule to speak at the summit.

"Sexual assault and harassment violate the core of what it means to be a member of the military," said McHugh. "Every Soldier and Airman has a duty to the mission and each other. Two important things: First, CSM Worley and I support your mission as Victim Advocates for the Sexual Assault Prevention/Response Program to care for service members who have been victims of sexual assault. Second, sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated. With your help, we must work together to change the culture within the military by promoting a climate of mutual respect and professionalism. It is your duty to train the force, set the example, and empower others to prevent, report, and intervene when you see behavior violating our Army Values."

"I thank you for your service and for being the very best part of the Pennsylvania National Guard; together, we are the most professional force in the nation," she said.