The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps issued a video message with some straight talk for Marines on the issue of sexual assault prevention.
Sgt. Maj. Mike Barrett told Marines in the passionate message posted Tuesday to “step in and do something.” When the Corps has a problem within its own ranks, they have to own it and fix it, he said.
“There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” Barrett said. “Remember who you are. … Remember who we are.”
The message introduces the Defense Department’s theme for the 2013 Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is in April. The year’s DOD theme is, “We own it. We solve it — together.”
But Barrett tells Marines it’s a message to remember all the time. Sexual assault destroys unit cohesion and devastates Marines, he said. And a failure to act is inconsistent with who Marines are, he added.
“You are your brothers’ and sisters’ keeper,” he said. “We always always stand together and protect one another. We always remain faithful.”
There has been a Corps-wide push to tackle the issue the service’s top leaders have identified as a significant problem. The Marine Corps saw 333 reported sexual assaults in 2011, according to a report released in July. However, officials believe the number is likely much higher, as such crimes are under-reported.
Last summer, the Marine Corps’ commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, introduced a new sexual assault prevention campaign that includes training for leaders, as well as an all-hands program for Marines provided by their commanders. Amos has called the problem’s scope an “ugly mark” on the service’s reputation.
Marine Corps Recruiting Command also launched a program early this year that has recruiters teaching poolees about sexual assault prevention.
“We’re not going to tolerate it,” Gen. Joseph Osterman, who then headed MCRC, said of sexual assault when the command launched the program. “So how do we, from the very first time a person even thinks about becoming a Marine until they retire or get out of the Marine Corps, make sure that they’ve got this woven into everything they do?”