Senior leaders talk DOD Safe Helpline, initiatives to stop sexual assault

April 18, 2012

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs

HEIDELBERG, Germany – The Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders campaigned to stop sexual assault in the military April 16 at Capitol Hill.

“General Dempsey and I consider this a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said. “It violates everything the U.S. military stands for.”

Panetta said service members and their families must feel secure enough to report sexual assault crimes without fear of retribution.

He discussed new initiatives, including a mandate for wider public dissemination of available sexual assault resources, such as the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, to help combat this problem.

“The Safe Helpline is a crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault,” said Michelle Fonseca, U.S. Army Europe G-1 Sexual Harassment, Assault Response and Prevention program specialist. “The Safe Helpline empowers victims of sexual assault to receive help and obtain information about the services that are available such as, crisis intervention, emotional support, referrals to both civilian and military resources, information on military reporting options, restricted and unrestricted, and information for family and friends of victims.”

The service is confidential, anonymous, secure and available worldwide and 24/7 to provide victims with the help they need anytime and anywhere by visiting, calling 001-877-995-5247, or texting their zip code to 001-202-470-5546, said Fonseca.

The initiatives also include:

  • Establishing with congressional approval a “special victims’ unit” within each service composed of specially trained experts in evidence collection, interviewing and working with victims
  • Requiring that sexual assault policies be explained to all service members within 14 days of their entry into active duty
  • Allowing National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been sexually assaulted to remain on active duty status to obtain the treatment and support afforded to active-duty members
  • Requiring a record of the outcome of disciplinary and administrative proceedings related to sexual assault and retaining the records centrally
  • Requiring commanders to conduct annual organizational climate assessments to measure whether they are meeting the department’s goal of a culture of professionalism and zero tolerance of sexual assault
  • Enhancing training programs for sexual assault prevention, including training for new military commanders in handling sexual assault matters

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