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Veteran’s Day Exclusive: Sneak peek interview with Major General Dunbar
Q: How is the Air Force working to prevent sexual harassment/sexual violence?
A: I can say unequivocally that the Air Force has devoted considerable time and thought into how to most effectively prevent sexual assault … Despite these efforts, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct still occurs within the force. The continued occurrence reinforces that far more needs to be done and that we must remain vigilant in our prevention focus.
This prevention focus is why the Air Force has been conducting two-day annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training summits for senior commanders worldwide. These summits reinforce to commanders the Air Force expectation that sexual assault prevention and accountability start at the top … our Air Force Equal Opportunity experts now train commanders through junior airmen on what we term the "continuum of harm" -- a continuum of unacceptable behavior that may begin with sexual harassment and progress to further sexual misconduct if not immediately addressed.
The Air Force has increased manning and bolstered selection criteria for our Basic Military Training operations, SAPR programs, and Special Victims’ Counsel program … In July, the Air Force also implemented a new regulation that requires commanders process for discharge from military service those found to have committed sexual assault.
We fully realize there's more we need to learn and improve, which is why we value our ability to collaborate with civilian anti-sexual assault advocates and experts.
Q: You served on the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment & Sexual Violence at the Military Service Academies and the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services. What did you learn from this experience ?
A: These two task forces illuminated the devastating and life-altering impact of sexual assault on victims, their families, our military, and the communities in which we live. Military members and veterans of all ages approached us to share heart-wrenching stories of the sexual trauma they experienced during their military service. One veteran tracked me down at my office to recount his story and to seek help. This gentleman was serving during the Vietnam War era when sexual assault shattered his life. Nearly 50 years later, he was still struggling to get beyond what happened to him. … Like many survivors of sexual trauma, his recovery was complicated by the fact that no one wanted to believe him, and so he received no support, let alone any recourse for justice. Unlike military sexual assault survivors today, this fine patriot lacked support systems within his military service, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We're at a much better place today in seeking to prevent and respond to both sexual assault and sexual harassment, thanks in large part to congressional oversight, insights from civilian organizations like NSVRC, and courageous survivors who still come forward to remind us that much more needs to be done.
To learn more about sexual violence in the U.S. military, check out our Military Guide.