Coast Guard chiefs confront sexual assault in the service

Service Dress Blues Day

Members of the Bay Area Chiefs’ Mess hold letters spelling the words “No Bystanders” on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton April 3. The mess sponsored the day as Service Dress Blues Day to begin discussions with personnel about sexual assault prevention awareness. (Coast Guard photo)

If you are a junior enlisted Coastie, you might have wondered if you missed the memo April 3 when you went in to work. Your chief was looking sharp in his or her service dress blues, and you were wearing your ODUs.

But the chiefs wore their SDBs on Wednesday to bring attention to a serious issue: sexual assault in the Coast Guard, said Command Master Chief R. Shane Hooker, command master chief for the deputy commandant of mission support at Coast Guard Headquarters. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The service had 156 reported cases of sexual assault in 2012; however, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes. The Defense Department estimated that 86 percent of sexual assaults in the military went unreported in 2010.

By wearing their SDBs, and not telling the rest of the ranks beforehand why they were doing it, the chiefs meant to draw attention and start a conversation with Coasties servicewide, said Hooker. He added that encouraging a conversation within the ranks about sexual assault could break down the barriers to reporting the crime.

“If they see all the chiefs jumping behind this and showing solidarity then if, unfortunately, someone does get sexually assaulted, they will feel more comfortable coming forward,” Hooker said.

Hooker said his Coast Guard is no place for sexual assault.

“[Service members] are such a great group of people, and to have something like this happen makes me sad,” he said.

If you participated in the event, or noticed the chiefs wearing their SDBs and wondered about it, share your story below.



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