PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, director of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of the Vice Chief of Staff, and her team spent the day discussing the topic of sexual assault with several groups of Team Pete Airmen Sept. 11.
The visit here was the 11th of 14 installation visits world-wide. During the discussions the General and her team received direct feedback from the Airmen and a better sense of how to answer so many of the unknown questions about the best way to tackle the issue of sexual assault.
When asked about why she is taking so much time to personally visit with Airmen and discuss the topic of sexual assault, the general remarked about how important this issue truly is.
"Sexual assault is a top priority of our senior leaders," said Woodward. "I am honored to be leading such a critical effort alongside a team of professionals dedicated to addressing this issue for the betterment of our force.
"As I meet with our Airmen, especially survivors, it reinforces how critical it is to get this right," she continued. "I learn something new every time I conduct a focus group, and those ideas, suggestions and concerns shared will help us shape our overall strategy in moving forward to attack this issue."
Woodward also commented on the extraordinary toll that sexual assault has on victims and their friends and family members, as well as the direct impact to mission readiness.
"Airmen need to better understand the level of trauma caused by this crime but also how best to support our victims," she said. "The foundation of the Air Force is our core values, and we must build on that foundation by reinforcing and fostering a culture of dignity and respect; an environment that identifies perpetrators and holds them accountable; an environment where victims feel empowered to come forward to report this crime."
In addition to the focus groups, Woodward's team will be hosting a SAPR Summit in October where they will meet with commanders, command chief master sergeants and sexual assault response coordinators.
"Commanders at all levels have direct responsibility for the culture and accountability within their units; commanders create the climate of their unit and ensure good order and discipline for the Airmen who have been entrusted to them," said Woodward.
"It's critical we educate our commanders and provide them with appropriate resources to effectively communicate with their Airmen on this subject, and to be able to support anyone who may be a victim," she added. "Our goal is to have commanders and Airmen alike foster environments where it's difficult for perpetrators to operate so that we can identify and isolate them, and where victims feel comfortable coming forward to report this crime."
For information or to see Gen. Mark Welsh's SAPR message, go to http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/sapr/index.asp
. To report a sexual assault, contact the Peterson SARC at 556-7272.