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NEWS | April 3, 2024

National Guard Continues Work to Eradicate Sexual Assault, Harassment

By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Guard continues to take action to prevent sexual assault and harassment within its ranks, provide victim care and support, and foster a culture to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment, said senior Guard leaders during an event marking the start of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
 
“This is not just a leader responsibility,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Giselle Wilz, director of staff with the National Guard Bureau, during the event. “It’s a battle buddy responsibility. It’s a team responsibility.”
 
Held at the Herbert R. Temple Army National Guard Readiness Center, Arlington Hall Station, in Arlington, Virginia, the event saw Wilz and Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Hoffses, the senior enlisted advisor to the director of staff, sign the 2024 National Guard Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Proclamation and announce the month’s theme and focus of “forging forward with change.”
 
“Although this is a 24/7, year-round event, today, and throughout the month of April, we are bringing attention to and focusing on creating an appropriate culture to eliminate sexual assault in our community, the profession of arms,” said Wilz, adding that continual, though slow, progress has been made.  
 
“After 40 years in uniform, I’d love to be able to get up here and say we have eradicated sexual assault from our profession,” she said. “We have not. We are improving. Not at the speed I would like, but we are improving.”
 
Though continued work is needed, the Guard has also seen lower instances of sexual assault than other military services or components, said Stephanie Fors, the Air National Guard sexual assault prevention and response program manager. 
 
Part of that is the culture of the Guard, she said, noting leadership involvement and prioritizing sexual assault prevention and response efforts. That includes standing up a sexual assault prevention task force to examine its response efforts and make needed changes.
 
“The National Guard has leaders who care,” she said. “They are able to reach out across the table and let their Airmen and Soldiers know they matter, how they feel matters, that if you come to me, I’m going to believe you and I’m going to make sure you have the resources and referrals that you need.” 
 
During the event, Wilz said she could see that difference. 
 
“Here’s how I know there’s a difference. Eight or nine years ago this room would have been full of just women. Today, the majority of folks in this room are caring leaders, male leaders.”
 
And that’s part of being “National Guard strong.” 
 
“There’s something beautiful about being National Guard strong,” said Fors. “It’s what makes us and it’s what cultivates us, and [is] a beautiful blueprint of what being proactive, empathetic Guardsmen looks like.”
 
Those are all elements that tie to focus of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and the aim or eradicating sexual assault and harassment.  
 
“And that’s why we chose this year’s theme of forging forward with change, because if National Guard has proven anything, it’s we lead the way.

 

 

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