ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS)--
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall signed a proclamation reaffirming the Department of the Air Force’s commitment to preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment, as well as supporting sexual assault survivors during a ceremony at the Pentagon, April 27.
In conjunction with the proclamation, he also announced a new provision to the Department’s leave policy that enables sexual assault survivors to take up to 30 days of non-chargeable leave as they seek resources to support their recovery.
“There is no higher priority than taking care of our Airmen, Guardians and their families,” Kendall said. “April’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month offers an opportunity to take stock of our efforts and recommit ourselves to ending sexual violence and supporting survivors. Our core values require it, and we have to stay focused on this topic year-round to meet the obligations we share with those whom we serve alongside.”
The Department’s year-round efforts include implementing FY22 National Defense Authorization Act requirement to establish an independent Office of Special Trial Counsel to oversee the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault and other victim-based offenses. Additionally, Department experts are focused on research-informed prevention strategies and ensuring comprehensive support for survivors.
Officials are implementing the ‘Safe-to-Report’ policy, pioneered at the U.S. Air Force Academy, which removes barriers to reporting by eliminating punishment for minor collateral misconduct such as underage drinking. Many other ongoing actions are linked to the Department of Defense’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, including:
- Developing a plan to ensure an independent reporting structure for Sexual Assault and Response Coordinators. This structure will provide independent oversight and empower SARCs to best support survivors while still maintaining direct access to commanders.
- Enabling sexual harassment survivors’ access to advocacy support from Sexual Assault Prevention and Response victim advocates.
- Increasing full-time victim advocates to strengthen the response workforce available to ensure critical support and care of victims.
- Researching prevention training initiatives including a Sexual Communication and Consent Program at basic military training, designed to increase military trainees’ understanding of consent and sexual assault.
“Each member of our team shares in the enduring responsibility to eliminate sexual assault and harassment from our ranks,” Kendall added. “I urge every Airman, Guardian, and Department civilian to treat each other with dignity and respect, hold others accountable to our high standards of conduct, and to take care of your teammates.”
Resources for sexual assault and harassment can be found here.