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NEWS | April 14, 2015

Shutdown inappropriate comments

By Col. John Lamontagne 437th Airlift Wing commander

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it is critical that we take this time to refocus ourselves on treating all our fellow Airmen and civilians with dignity and respect.  Sexual assault is a crime that harms people and degrades unit integrity.  We cannot accept this behavior or the inappropriate comments that enable potential assailants to hide in plain sight. 

There have been far too many instances of sexual assault throughout our military.  Investigations sometimes conclude that a permissive environment existed in the workplace prior to a sexual assault.  In fact, surveys show that more than 75 percent of our Airmen have heard inappropriate comments in the workplace.  While 100 percent of us know this is unacceptable, only 10 percent of us actively do something to correct and stop these comments!  Joint Base Charleston must do more to prevent this type of culture from existing.  The first step is to know that you are empowered to act when you encounter inappropriate comments.  We must increase the numbers of those willing to intervene from a timid 10 percent to at least a resolute 90 percent. This responsibility belongs to each of us and we owe it to those with whom we serve. 

I challenge you to be bold and put a stop to inappropriate comments.  Silent acceptance of this behavior provides an opportunity for potential sexual assault assailants to exploit such an environment.  Shut down this behavior by letting your team know the negative impact these remarks can have in your unit.  Don't let ignorant comments or jokes become a gateway to sexual assault.

Sexual assault prevention must be a priority for everyone in our wing.  I encourage you to reevaluate your role in sexual assault prevention.  Most importantly, I need your help to cultivate a work environment that promotes a sense of safety, dignity and respect.

Thank you for your service and your commitment to your fellow Airmen!