What’s going on?
Have you ever experienced or witnessed harassment? That question may be difficult to answer “yes” when you first think about it. Have you ever heard a catcall, whistle or comment such as “hey baby,” “stud” or “sexy” used toward someone? Have you ever seen someone rubber-necking or flat out staring in a way that could make someone else feel uncomfortable?
Unfortunately, it may be easy to answer “yes” to these questions. The sad reality is that this behavior is common in our society. White Ribbon VA is a movement that seeks to mobilize all those that step foot onto VA grounds. It addresses these important questions and ensures VA facilities are safe and welcoming places for all Veterans, their families, volunteers, visitors and staff.
I’m a proud Veteran and VA staff member, and I have a tremendous amount of loyalty to my fellow Veterans and VA colleagues. However, I have personally seen the type of behavior described above, and I haven’t said or done enough to stop it.
How can I be loyal and possess other core values from my military service (honor, courage, commitment) and be “ok” with ignoring that type of disrespect? For Veterans, our military core values that we carry with us for the rest of our lives compel us to take action to combat a culture that is tolerant of verbal harassment, assault and violence.
VA core values inspire the same commitment
Some people think this behavior is harmless or flirting, or even think they are giving a compliment. However, it is not acceptable. This behavior is harassment and has been witnessed or experienced by far too many for far too long.
Former Defense Secretary General James Mattis wrote “preventing sexual assault is our moral duty.”
In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s a sobering statistic.
Whether you realize it or not, people in your circle of friends and family have been sexually assaulted. In keeping with the theme of living our core values, shouldn’t preventing such harmful acts be something for which we take personal responsibility?
What can I do?
In recognition of these undeniable truths, VA is joining forces with communities across the nation to launch White Ribbon VA. White Ribbon VA aims to eliminate sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence in VA health care settings and communities. It also promotes a positive change in culture. Now is the time to band together.
VA facilities across the nation are hosting local events and using social media to provide opportunities for Veterans, employees and VA partners to take the White Ribbon VA pledge. Join us in pledging to never commit, excuse or remain silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence.
Kevin Holzinger is a former chief hospital corpsman for the U.S. Navy.