JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
In his opening remarks at the Joint Base San Antonio Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Summit at the Sam Houston Community Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston April 19, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) commanding general, said service members need to build a culture of trust in preventing and stopping sexual assault in the military.
Buchanan spoke about the need for active duty and JBSA members to not be bystanders and to take action to stop sexual assault and harassment in the military ranks. He said that can be done by building trust within units and between service members and commanders.
“We need to move from being aware of what sexual assault and sexual harassment is to actually getting more active to prevent it,” Buchanan said. “We can’t do that without a culture of trust.”
Buchanan said the military has made an effort to get more sexual assault survivors to report their cases, increasing the report rate from between 12 to 13 percent to about 40 percent over a seven-year span.
“We put a lot of effort in changing that dynamic because we can’t do anything about these events if we don’t know anything about them,” he said. “Our efforts in building this culture of trust enables people to come forward and enables people to report.”
Buchanan said sexual assault and violence among military members is a heinous crime because it can lead to the destruction of trust within units.
“It’s like fratricide,” he said. “Only it’s not an accident, its intentional fratricide. Think about what that does to trust.”
By building a culture of trust, Buchanan said active-duty and JBSA members can depend on and trust each other to stop and prevent sexual assault and harassment.
“We talked about building a culture of trust, how it takes all of us to participate and build that culture up and then what we need to do to keep it,” Buchanan said, “because if we are not careful we could possibly fail in an instance.”
Following Buchanan’s remarks, Dr. Charlotte Moerbe, JBSA sexual assault response coordinator, and Dan Katka, JBSA deputy sexual assault response coordinator, lead discussions among audience members on issues and trends on sexual assault.
One of the discussions focused on a video in which women read stories from sexual assault survivors. Assuming the experiences of the sexual assault survivors they read were female, the women in the video are surprised when they learn the sexual assault survivors are men, who they meet in person.
The focus of the video was to spread the message that one in six men in the U.S. have experienced sexual assault and that sexual assault affects all genders, orientations, ages, ethnicities and ages.
Referring to that statistic, Katka said: “There are a lot of men here today. Chances are somebody in this room is affected by this.
“We often think sexual assault is a woman’s issue, but it’s not,” Katka added. “It’s a human issue, it’s a people issue. And behind every single one of these stories is a person.”