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News | May 23, 2018

Director stresses importance of preventing, responding to sexual assault at annual workshop

By John Bell

The director of the Defense Logistics Agency and officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office were among the guest speakers at a multiday workshop for DLA’s sexual assault response coordinators, May 8-10 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

The training event was DLA’s second annual SARC workshop hosted by the DLA Headquarters SAPR staff for the eight full-time coordinators since the agency began its formal program just over two years ago.

Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams has continually stressed to the workforce that he places the highest priority on preventing sexual assault — and on making sure all reports are fully investigated; that persons found to have committed assault are punished appropriately; and that victims are given all the resources they need.

The highly trained coordinators are one of the most important of those resources. Each one is the voice on the other end of DLA’s 24/7 Hotline — 800-841-0937. The hotline is staffed by sexual assault response coordinators on duty throughout the agency, ready to respond any time of day, any day of the week.

In his remarks, Williams emphasized the damage sexual assault causes not just to the victim but to an entire workforce. “I’ve been an advocate for this issue all of my military career,” he said. “I don’t think anything breaks the confidence of the workforce and shatters its trust in coworkers, subordinates and the chain of command like sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

Since the agency began its increased focus on this area in recent years, the director noted, there has been an increase in reported assaults across the agency’s workforce of 26,000 civilian and military personnel. Williams said he is “very concerned”— but he acknowledged that while this may reflect an actual increase in the number of incidents, the increase in reports might instead be due to greater comfort with reporting, as employees have become more aware of the agency’s strong commitment to supporting victims and of the resources available to them.

The workshop also featured sessions on legal and ethical topics as well as training on incident documentation.

Billie Keeler, the agency’s deputy director of Human Resources, noted that DLA’s increased focus on preventing and responding to sexual assault has yielded positive feedback from the workforce and leadership.

"DLA’s SARCs provide an invaluable service to employees in need of support, so it’s critically important that they have this opportunity to come together as a team to discuss these sensitive topics and share lessons learned and best practices,” Keeler said. “SARCs support victims who come forward and disclose an incident of sexual assault, and they help victims navigate the various systems they may come in contact with during the reporting process.  They do this with compassion and empathy and ensure victims have access to the resources they need. Their professionalism and dedication has contributed to the progress of our SAPR program at DLA.”

For more on the DLA SAPR program, more resources are available here.