Hagel: Sexual Assault Prevention, Response Critical to the Health of Force

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Defense Department has made “encouraging progress” in its efforts to combat sexual assaults in the military, though there is still more work to be done. Speaking Jan. 16 during his closing remarks at the Air Force’s inaugural summit on sexual assault at JB Andrews, Md., Hagel said sexual assault is an issue that “has to be personal.” Accountability is the key to solving the problem, he added. “Accountability is the one system that does work in life. Whether you’re a parent or a you’re a spouse, regardless of your profession, everyone is accountable. And, that is as it should be,” said Hagel. “If we come at it that way, the accountability that we each have … then we’re off in the right direction.” After the Pentagon announced a sweeping overhaul of its sexual assault and prevention program in 2013, the Air Force expanded its SAPR office from a staff of four to more than 30 and introduced the special victims council (SVC) unit, which according to survivors, has made all the difference in terms of victim support. Despite these efforts, DOD still has “to do more work” to stop “social retaliation against” the victims of sexual assault. “I can’t think of an issue that is more essential to the health of the force than eradicating sexual assault in the military,” Hagel said. (Hagel transcript.)