In August 2021, male and female Veterans, attending the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Women Veterans Seminar in Tampa, Florida, took the White Ribbon VA pledge to pledge their commitment to ending harassment and sexual assault.

Lelia Jackson described the White Ribbon VA pledge as, “A simple pledge where you make an individual commitment to never excuse, never commit, or stay silent about ending harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence against others.

“It’s that simple, but a really powerful movement.”

“A simple but powerful movement.”

Jackson is director of the VA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office.

The elimination of sexual harassment and sexual assault is a top priority with VA. The new Deborah Sampson Act legislation focuses on improving healthcare services and benefits for Women Veterans.

Workgroup to end assault at the local level

Ending sexual harassment and sexual assault is a key component of the act. The law also requires VA to improve its harassment and sexual assault policy and strengthen its reporting procedures.

In addition, the law directs VA to include state, local and tribal Veterans agencies to serve on the VA secretary’s workgroup to assist in efforts to eradicate harassment and sexual assault at the local level.

Jackson discussed combating these issues will require educating VA employees and Veterans, like providing bystander intervention training. The training provides techniques to empower them to speak up when they see harassment or sexual assault occurring.

Bystander intervention training for Veterans is anticipated to be available this coming fall.

Ending harassment and assault is a team effort

“It’s happening in our community, and we’re saying it must stop at the door before you go into a VA facility,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in 10 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Jackson told the attendees that ending harassment and sexual assault within VA facilities and surrounding communities is a team effort.

She encouraged the seminar attendees to commit to being part of the solution by taking the White Ribbon VA pledge:

“I (state your name), pledge to never commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence against others.”

Veterans can document their commitment at the website below:

https://www.whiteribbonusa.org/whiteribbon-va-pledge

By Kristin Wright is a program specialist detailed to the VA Assault and Prevention Office.

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Published on Sep. 4, 2021

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