Inside the Gates: Alaska National Guard dedicates April to spreading awareness about sexual assault

Inside the Gates: Alaska National Guard dedicates April to spreading awareness about sexual assault.
Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 12:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska National Guard is dedicating April to spreading awareness about sexual assault as part of the Department of Defense’s National Sexual Assault and Prevention Month.

This year’s theme is “STEP FORWARD. Prevent. Report. Advocate.”

Staff say it is a month of reminders and support for victims.

“It is a call to action to remind everybody that they have to do their part in order to make sure that we are preventing, number one sexual assault from occurring,” said Ashley Shelton, the sexual assault response coordinator for Alaska National Guard. “And two, if it does occur, that we’re creating environments where people feel comfortable coming forward to report and seek services.”

The guard kicked off this month by having a proclamation signed by Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe. Every Tuesday in April, service and civilian members are invited to dress in teal as a reminder of the awareness they are spreading.

“Sexual assault is something that we have to keep an eye on, right,” Shelton said. “So, even if people are making progress across the board in the prevention and reducing the numbers, this is something that if you’re not vigilant about it, it could potentially come back.”

In addition, they are providing additional sexual assault awareness courses twice a week for victim advocates, allowing them to get an additional hour to their credentials.

“It’s teaching them a little bit more about different resources, things that they can put in their toolbox to help their survivors,” Shelton said.

Shelton hopes that this month will help empower survivors and bring comfort to those who may have not asked for help yet. In addition, the month serves as a reminder to others the importance of “stepping up,” Shelton said.

“I hope this month that they take away that they feel empowered to help in those prevention efforts, and understand that they can make a difference in preventing sexual assault,” Shelton said.

Alaska National Guard members can report a sexual assault by reaching out to Shelton or her cell at 907-854-1899. This line, Shelton said, is monitored 24/7. Either herself or another person will answer and help. Other armed forces members she encourages to reach out to their Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

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